Metra engineers OK 7-year deal

Metra commuter engineers (former IC-Electric, MILW and Rock Island) represented by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen ratified a new seven year contract by a two-thirds majority.

The agreement provides wage increases of 16.5 percent over the life of the contract, which runs through July 1, 2010. Members will also receive a 2.5 percent lump sum bonus (a minimum of $1,200) and retroactive wage increases dating to July 1, 2006.

"I was involved in negotiations from day one," said Mike Taylor, a general chairman on Metra for the past two years. "It was a long and grueling process, but the final result was worth it. In terms of overall quality, we're right up there with other agreements around the country."

Other wage increases will come in the form of an increased certification allowance. This allowance, paid to locomotive engineers who are federally certified to operate locomotives, will increase several times over the life of the agreement: to $10 per tour of duty on April 19, 2007; to $12 on July 1, 2009; and to $13 on July 1, 2011.

"I commend the members of the Metra negotiating team, who had the difficult job of negotiating wage increases at a railroad that receives half of its funding from public funding," said BLET National President Don Hahs. "The negotiating team did a tremendous job."

BLET Vice President Richard K. Radek assisted three General Chairmen on the negotiating team - John Koonce (former IC Electric); Mike Priester (MILW North and West Lines); and Mike Taylor (former Rock Island).

"One of the most problematic things was the fact that Metra is about 50 percent publicly tax supported, and that funding source is shrinking due to lower tax revenues and highly increased demand for the funds, both from other agencies and because of public employee pension underfunding in the State of Illinois," Vice President Radek said. "Another problematic issue was the ever-increasing cost of the benefit package, including health care coverage. I think we did well in obtaining the core economic portion of this agreement."

Metra engineers will enjoy cost-free health care until Jan. 1, 2009. After that, members will contribute $50 per month until Jan. 1, 2010, when the cost will increase to $75 per month. The contribution will be capped at $80 per month starting Jan. 1, 2011.

"We were able to increase our certification allowance to $13 per tour and obtain a higher general wage increase, which more than offsets the health care contribution," Vice President Radek said.

Other contract provisions include:

"We would like to thank Vice President Radek for all his help in reaching this settlement," the three General Chairmen said in a statement.

The 495-mile Metra system serves more than 100 communities at 251 rail stations in the Chicago area. The Metra system is comprised of 11 separate lines radiating from Chicago's Loop via four downtown stations: Chicago Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center, Millennium Station and LaSalle Street Station.

Metra oversees all commuter rail operations in the 3,700 square mile northeastern Illinois region, with responsibility for day-to-day operations, fare and service levels, capital improvements and planning.




© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen