BLE agrees to support Senate bill after removal of fuel tax provision
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) has agreed to support legislation designed to reform the Railroad Retirement system by improving benefits and reducing industry contributions. The move came on September 8, one day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill -- H.R. 4844 -- by a 391-25 margin.
Prior to coming to the House floor for a vote, a provision that would have repealed a 4.3 cent diesel fuel tax, which the BLE strongly opposes, was stripped from the bill. The Senate is expected to act swiftly on the measure.
The decision to support the bill was announced Friday, during the national wage/rules negotiations between the BLE's National Wage Committee and the National Carriers' Conference Committee (NCCC) in Washington, D.C. It resulted from the NCCC's offer to extend early retiree health benefit improvements immediately to the BLE and its members, while talks continue on the full range of matters covered in the parties' Section 6 notices.
BLE International President Edward Dubroski, in commenting on the announcement, said that supporting the bill was a necessary and prudent measure at this time.
"The margin of the House vote sent a very clear message about the strength and depth of Congressional support for this measure," stated Dubroski. "Because the health insurance improvements contained in the package are collectively bargained, rather than legislated, we found ourselves in a position whereby those improvements could be jeopardized for locomotive engineers who plan to retire prior to age 61 in the new year. That risk was unacceptable."
Dubroski also said that the focus of the battle will now shift to the bargaining table.
"The carriers may soon have over 400 million fewer reasons not to provide BLE members with a fair contract, and we are going to continue to pay close attention to health benefits for early retirees."
© 2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers