BLET organizes Maine, Montreal & Atlantic shortline

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen reached a tentative contract agreement with the Montana Rail Link (MRL) on May 19 that applies to approximately 400 BLET-represented operating employees.

If approved, the five-year contract would provide a 16 percent general wage increase over the life of the agreement, a $1,000 signing bonus, and a host of other improvements.

The BNSF/MRL General Committee of Adjustment mailed the proposed agreement, ballots and related materials to BLET members on May 18. Copies of the agreement along with a synopsis is available on the General Committee website,

If approved, the contract would become effective on April 1, 2006. The first general wage Increase of 4 percent would have a retroactive April 1 application to all pay rates. The agreement also includes an increase to the 401(k) match program worth 1 percent in annual wages as well as enhancements to holiday pay, bereavement leave, and deadheading (travel time) rules.

The agreement also permanently reduces entry rates for affected new employees to six months at 90 percent with all pay at 100 percent after that point. The reduced entry rate provision would apply to all existing employees currently working under entry rates.

The BLET bargaining team was lead by General Chairman Dennis Pierce with Vice President Steve Speagle assigned to assist the team. First Vice General Chairman Matt Wilson, Division 262 Local Chairman Randy Smith and Division 232 Local Chairman Joe Zawada made up the rest of the BLET bargaining team.

"In my humble opinion these improvements were made possible by the BLET Bargaining Team's unified approach to addressing the issues before us," General Chairman Pierce said. "That group, Vice President Speagle, Vice General Chairman Wilson, Local Chairman Zawada, Local Chairman Smith and myself met to establish our course in the round and then worked together with a common focus to pursue that course. My hat is off to the team. We could not have accomplished what we did without everyone contributing to every step in the process."

BLET National President Don Hahs applauded the team's efforts in obtaining a non-concessionary agreement, especially their efforts to hold the line on employee contributions to health and welfare costs.

"The proposal not only holds the line on increases to the current employee health and welfare contributions, but the employees' benefit plan was improved to include limited coverage of physical exams as well as a reduction in the waiting period for short term disability benefits," he said.

All members of the bargaining team attended meetings throughout the last week of May and into early June to discuss the proposal with BLET members.

"This issue is very important to the BLET membership on MRL and we look forward to meeting with them to go through the proposal line by line so that they have the opportunity to fully understand all of the changes in the agreement," Pierce said.

Membership ballots are due back in late June.



© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen