BLET engineers, trainmen approve strong contract with Utah Railway

Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represented by the BLET ratified a new contract with the Utah Railway on July 29.

The five-year deal calls for a 15 percent general wage increase over the life of the contract. Additional fringe benefits could boost overall earnings slightly higher to approximately 18 percent.

The BLET has represented engineers at the short line for several years, but organized the trainmen on February 28, 2003. Many of the trainmen chose BLET over their former union, the UTU, in order to achieve better representation. Both crafts voted separately on this contract, each approving it by a decisive majority.

"During the organizing drive, the question arose about trainmen voting on their own contract," said Dale McPherson, BLET Vice-President. "We made good on that commitment with this contract."

Vice-President McPherson assisted the negotiating team, consisting of General Chairman Rick Milano, Local Chairman-Engineers John Sloan, Local Chairman-Trainmen Steve Clifton, and General Committee Secretary-Treasurer Todd Hamilton.

"Rick, Steve, John and Todd were a real pleasure to work with," Vice-President McPherson said. "They did their homework and did an excellent job of representing their members."

Milano said that Brother Clifton, a trainman and former UTU Local Chairman, was an integral part of the negotiating team.

"I'm glad we worked together as a team," General Chairman Milano said. "Conductors and engineers both were on the bargaining committee."

Brother Clifton, the Local Chairman for conductors at the Utah Railway, said many trainmen were somewhat skeptical of the BLET going into this round of negotiations. However, they soon realized those concerns were unfounded when the new contract was unveiled.

"Some people were asking, 'Will the BLET really look out for us or will they try to give locomotive engineers everything?'" he said. "I was kind of hesitant myself. But during negotiations, the BLET was looking out for conductors and engineers both. It wasn't one sided and I think everyone was happy with it. People were happy with the BLET and how the contract turned out."

Clifton said members were most pleased with the back pay and general wage increases negotiated by BLET.

"With this contract we gave nothing up and got increases," he said. "Everybody's pleased with the back pay and 15 percent raise."

Engineers and trainmen will receive back pay retroactive to Jan. 1, 2005.

In addition to the general wage increases and back pay, the contract contains numerous provisions that secure the safety and jobs of BLET members.

While remote control is currently not in use on the property, the BLET took steps to make sure it is implemented properly and in the safest manner possible.

"The organization will be involved in any pre-implementation of remote control, particularly regarding safety features," Vice-President McPherson said.

The new contract also preserves a minimum crew consist agreement of not less than one locomotive engineer and one conductor on each remote control job.

"Engineer only is not an issue on this property," Vice-President McPherson said.

According to General Chairman Milano, the company wanted to give all remote control assignments to locomotive engineers.

"It was a hot issue and I thought it would be a deal-breaker," Milano said. "But we got a deal that protects both sides and everyone's satisfied. It's a good agreement for both crafts."

Engineers and trainmen will receive one hour of pay in addition to all other earnings when working remote control assignments. In addition, the BLET secured seven years of protection at a defined rate of pay for anyone who may be adversely impacted by implementation of remote control.

In terms of health care, BLET members will be switched to Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and all members will receive a $500 lump sum payment in the first quarter of 2006 and an additional $500 lump sum payment in the first quarter of 2007 to offset any out of pocket expenses that may occur because of this change. Also, monthly contributions are frozen at $50 per month for the dependent coverage during the life of the contract. Employee health care costs are covered by the company.

The BLET obtained a 50 percent company match on 401k contributions, up to 4 percent of an employee's salary.

"A $70,000 per year employee who puts 4 percent or more of his earnings into the 401k would receive approximately $7,000 in matching funds from the company over the life of the agreement. That's $7,000 in free money," Vice-President McPherson said.

General Chairman Milano was pleased with the fact that every single trainman on the property cast ballots, regardless of how they voted.

"I thank the Bargaining Committee and those who voted, whether they voted for it or against it," he said. "I'm pleased that they exercised their right to vote.

"John Sloan, Steve Clifton, Todd Hamilton and Dale McPherson did an outstanding job."

The Utah Railway Company, incorporated in January of 1912, transports more than 90,000 carloads of freight per year in central and northern Utah. It transports between 50-60,000 carloads each year for movement to power plants and industrial customers. Additionally, it acts as a switching agent in the Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden areas of Utah for BNSF. Utah Railway has connections with BNSF and UP at Provo and Utah Railway Junction, Utah, as well as at Grand Junction, Colo.

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (GWI) purchased the Utah Railway on Aug. 28, 2002. GWI is a leading operator of short line and regional freight railroads in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Bolivia.



© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen