BLET, Amtrak reach tentative pact

BLET members ratified a new agreement with the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway (NYS&W) yesterday, governing wages and working conditions for their train and engine service employees.

The agreement, reached in mid-July, was ratified by a 10-to-1 majority. It provides an immediate increase of 9 percent in the hourly rate of pay and an additional 9 percent general wage increase over the life of the contract, which runs through the end of 2010. It also provides for a $5,800 lump sum benefit payable in three equal installments beginning shortly after ratification and continuing through 2009. The agreement covers approximately 40 members.

According to BLET National Vice President Marcus Ruef, negotiations had been ongoing since 2003, and were completed under the auspices of the National Mediation Board, with the guidance of Mediator Dick Hanusz, whose services had been sought by BLET.

General Chairman Ben Martin, who was assisted in the last year and conclusion of negotiations by Vice President Ruef, outlined the benefits obtained for BLET members under the new agreement:

"Highlights from the ratified agreement include 9 percent general wage increases to $21 per hour and will increase to $22.95 per hour on January 1, 2010 at the end of annual 3 percent wage increases commencing January 1, 2008," Martin said. "Additional benefits include a $5,800 per employee back pay lump sum, limitations on the annulment of regular assignments, shoving pay for conductors, increased meal allowances, increased certification allowances, increased work boot allowance, supply of raingear, and strengthened cleaning provisions for locomotives."

General Chairman Martin went on to say that the limitations that were placed on the Carrier's manipulation of regular assignments, as well as the preservation of other work rules and health & welfare benefits, were major reasons why members voted in favor of the agreement.

"It was the job protection from annulment that was monumental," Martin said. "Hardworking union brothers were being given part time hours for a full time job due to a loophole in the previous agreement. Now the incentive to cancel a job multiple times in a week is gone.

"The process was three-plus years of preserving an already outstanding Agreement. It was very important that we retained an excellent health care rule and several work rules that have been achieved over several years."

Brother Martin thanked a host of officers and members who helped to make the new agreement a reality.

"I'd like to thank National Vice Presidents Marcus Ruef and Merle Geiger from the National Division of the BLET, retired Vice President Paul Wingo, David Cameron from the IBT, Local Committee of Adjustment officers Greg Chandler and Matt Gibbons, and, most importantly, all the Division 521 members at the NYS&W Railway who stood by the organization throughout the lengthy negotiations," Martin said.

Brother Martin said the overwhelming acceptance of the new agreement is a sign of tremendous solidarity on his property.

"The Agreement passed ratification by a 10-to-1 margin on the first vote," he said. "I am very proud that Teamster solidarity exists within the Brotherhood on the NYS&W property."

National Vice President Marcus Ruef said the process that culminated in the agreement was a long and winding road.

"Everyone involved in this process worked very hard to reach a fair contract settlement," Ruef said. "Vice Presidents Wingo and Geiger both invested a lot of time and effort into this project before my assignment. David Cameron, Senior Communication Specialist with IBT, was very generous with his time and assistance, and set an example of how we can benefit from our affiliation with the Teamsters.

"Brother Martin and his members were steadfast throughout the process. All of our combined efforts led to a satisfactory outcome for our NYS&W members, who have an agreement they are rightfully proud of. Mediator Dick Hanusz of NMB also deserves special mention, because it was his efforts to get the Parties together that led to each side seeing its way to making the Agreement that enjoyed such an overwhelming ratification."

The agreement runs through 2010, and Section Six notices can be served in July of that year.

The NYS& W operates over 400 miles of track in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, serving more than 85 customers. The railroad transports a wide range of commodities such as feed ingredients, lumber and other building materials, chemicals and aggregates for customers in New York State; and plastics, lumber, food products, paper products, motor vehicles, chemicals, aggregates, and metals for customers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The NYSW has connections with three Class I railroads: CSX, Canadian Pacific, and Norfolk Southern.

The NYS&W agreement is signed on July 15 at the NYS&W offices at Cooperstown, N.Y. Fromleft: BLET General Chairman Ben Martin (standing) looks on as NYS&W President Nathan Fenno (center) signs the agreement, while NYS&W Vice President of Operations Bill Bloomfield (right) looks on.

From left: New York, Susquehanna & Western (NYS&W) General Chairman Benjamin Martin and Northern Division Local Chairman Matthew Gibbons, both members of BLET Division 521, taken at Cortland, N. Y. (Photo courtesy BLET Division 421 Member Joseph Geronimo.)



© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen