CN-IC deal emphasizes better quality of life

BLE members working on Canadian National's former Illinois Central (IC) properties ratified a new labor agreement on August 1.

The agreement - modeled on one approved by BLE members on CN's Wisconsin Central Division earlier this year - applies to 415 locomotive engineers and eliminates prior work rules and agreements in exchange for guaranteed time off and job security for all BLE members now qualified as engineers. It will also see engineers paid an hourly wage.

Many consider the recently ratified contract a radical change from traditional mileage-based agreements.

The contract, ratified on July 29, embraces an hourly pay rate and guaranteed time off, which is intended to improve the quality of life for locomotive engineers.

The agreement is based on the hourly rate model ratified by BLE members on the Wisconsin Central Division of CN, which went in to effect in April.

In negotiating the agreement, CN committed to operating "meet and turn" (turn around) road assignments to the greatest extent possible. The turn around road service is intended to improve members' quality of life. It should reduce the amount of time engineers spend at away from home terminals while increasing the amount of time they can spend at home.

Outside of the quality of life improvements, the contract provides for substantial wage gains and fully paid hospitalization. BLE members will also benefit from major job security provisions in the agreement. For example, the new contract provides lifetime employment security for current working engineers and affords the same lifetime security to future engineers who accumulate 60 months of service.

Illinois Central General Chairman John Koonce said the agreement contains a reversion clause, which will allow either party to opt out of the agreement after three years.

"Because the agreement departs from the traditional mile based agreements, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but because it is different, we negotiated a provision that allows us to scrap the agreement and go back to prior agreements that were in effect," Brother Koonce said.

Rick Radek, BLE International Vice-President & Director of Arbitration, said he is confident the hourly rate agreement will benefit BLE members.

"The hourly rate agreement is not a 'one size fits all' proposition," he said. "But based on actual experience, the Wisconsin Central agreement, which is similar in nature, seems to be working out quite well. We don't expect it to be any different on Illinois Central once the agreement is in effect."

The three-year agreement took effect Aug. 1, 2002.


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers