BLET, SEPTA reach five-year tentative deal

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) has reached a tentative five-year contract agreement for its 195 members who work for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).

Ballots were mailed on August 10 and the final results will be tallied on August 21.

"From the beginning, the BLET's objective was to reach an agreement that is fair and acceptable for our members," said Rich Dixon, BLET General Chairman at SEPTA.

The parties reached a voluntary agreement following one meeting before Presidential Emergency Board No. 239. The five-year agreement gives BLET members improvements in wages and other benefits.

"Due to countless hours of preparation and unwavering commitment by General Chairman Rich Dixon, Vice General Chairman Don Hill, President Steve Bruno and a host of others, the SEPTA General Committee has negotiated a fair agreement for Locomotive Engineers," said BLET First Vice President Ed Rodzwicz, who heads the BLET's Passenger Rail Department at the National Division.

If approved, the agreement will provide members with a $1,000 signing bonus and wage increases of 12 percent over the life of the agreement. BLET locomotive engineers would also earn an improved certification allowance under the new contract.

Philadelphia commuters and the media paid close attention as negotiations unfolded between BLET and SEPTA, mainly because the threat of a strike that would have encompassed Philadelphia, four suburban counties, and service to Trenton, N.J., and Wilmington, Del.

"Due to the carrier's hard-line position during this round of negotiations, the possibility of a work stoppage seemed great," Dixon, said. "But the facts and evidence presented by the BLET in Presidential Emergency Board Number 239 played a major part in persuading the carrier to show movement in resolving this dispute."

In particular, Dixon credits Roland Wilder and the staff of the law firm Baptiste and Wilder, Stefan Sutich, and Teamster Economist Jim Kimball for their efforts in reaching the tentative deal.

In addition to general wage increases, locomotive engineers would earn an increased certification allowance. In lieu of a $4 per day payment received under the old agreement from recommendations of Presidential Emergency Board Number 231, engineers would receive a payment of 50 cents per pay hour on top of their regular hourly pay under the new contract. In most cases, the 50 cents per hour increase would be more than the $4 per day certification allowance and is subject to all general wage increases.

"Locomotive engineers at SEPTA average far in excess of eight hours a day and 40 hours of work per week," Dixon said.

Pay hours under the new agreement would also include days when engineers attend annual rules classes, vacation time, sick days, and personal holidays.

"Prior to this agreement, locomotive engineers were not paid for certification on the aforementioned days," Dixon said.

In a concession to on-property pattern agreements, BLET members would be required to pay one percent of forty hours per week towards the cost of health care benefits. However, BLET members would not be required to make these payments until Aug. 1, 2008.

The tentative contract contains an additional Line of Duty Death Benefit payment of $250,000, in the event that a member is killed as a result of robbery or assault while performing their duties. In addition, the tentative agreement contains an increased life insurance benefit of $40,000 from $34,000.

For its retired members, and for those planning an early retirement, the proposed deal would provide a retiree prescription coverage for a period of three years or age 65, whichever comes first. The benefit comes at no cost to the union or individual members.

The contract would provide an increase in the daily parking allowance and additional bereavement leave for its members. The old agreement contained two longevity increases of an additional $1 per hour each for 10 and 15 years of service at SEPTA. The 15-year wage rate, which contains both longevity increases, has been established as the top rate for locomotive engineers and the compounding factor at each general wage increase provides for additional increases for junior engineers when they reach 10 and 15 years of service.

"I wish to commend the SEPTA General Committee Negotiating Team, First Vice President Ed Rodzwicz, the employees of the law firm Baptiste and Wilder, specifically Roland Wilder and Stephen Sutich, and Teamster Economist Jim Kinball for the excellent work they have done in obtaining this tentative agreement for our members on SEPTA," said BLET National President Don Hahs.



© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen