Volume 14 - Number 10
Railroad retirement bill goes down to the wire
At press time, the future of legislation designed to improve benefits for active railroad workers, retirees and surviving spouses, and to provide reductions in Tier II tax levels for railroads, continues to be mired in political intrigue in the United States Senate.
The bill, which the House of Representatives passed by a 391-25 margin, has 83 Senate co-sponsors, and is awaiting introduction on the Senate floor.
The proposed measure, which would reduce the vesting requirement from 10 years to five, eliminate the actuarial reduction for those who retire prior to age 62, increase surviving spouses' annuities and eliminate the Railroad Retirement maximum benefit, has no opposition among either rail labor or management. However, the bill is being attacked by outside interests, including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and various groups promoting the privatization of Social Security
Three ultra-conservative Senators - Pete Domenici (R-NM), Phil Gramm (R-TX) and Don Nickles (R-OK) - have thus far successfully convinced Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) to hold the bill from consideration by the full Senate.
Their opposition is based on two factors. One is a desire by ultra-conservative legislators to completely privatize the Railroad Retirement system as a prelude to a plan to privatize Social Security. The other concerns the fact that - under the federal government's unitary budget scoring system - transfers of Railroad Retirement funds from the U.S. Treasury to the new Railroad Retirement Trust Fund could be scored as a reduction in assets on the federal books ...
The BLE National Wage Committee met with railroad industry negotiators in Washington during the week of October 9, in the latest effort to move forward with bargaining on Section 6 notices served last November.
The talks, originally scheduled for October 2, were postponed for a week after the announcement of a tentative agreement between the carriers represented by the National Carriers' Conference Committee (NCCC) and the United Transportation Union (UTU) ...
Fatalities caused by railroad switching operations have reached "crisis" proportions in the United States, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is helping to spearhead a safety campaign with government regulators and industry leaders to save lives.
In the first 10 months of this year, 10 fatalities have occurred in switching operations. From January of 1992 to July of 1998 -- a period of 79 months -- there were 76 employee fatalities in switching operations, an average of nearly one per month.
The Federal Railroad Administration issued a joint declaration in September which states in part, "We, as a Railroad Community, will initiate an unprecedented sustained safety campaign on the crisis situation responsible for causing deaths and injuries that occur during switching operations."
The declaration was supported by the BLE, United Transportation Union, the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. These organizations comprise the Switching Operations Fatality Analysis Working Group -- or SOFA. The group was originally formed in February of 1998 at the request of FRA to review switching operations accident reports and to develop recommendations for reducing fatalities and injuries ...