Operation of remotes is BLE jurisdiction
BLE International President Don M. Hahs challenged the United Transportation Union's attempt to "circumvent the law" and gain jurisdiction over remote control technology, stating that the BLE - not UTU - is the union that carriers must bargain with to implement the new technology.
President Hahs warned that any agreement between the carriers and the UTU regarding remote control technology will be treated as a direct violation of the BLE's rights to bargain on behalf of its members.
"It is our position that any proposed changes in rates of pay, rules, or working conditions resulting from the use of remote control technology would have to be negotiated with our organization," President Hahs wrote in an October 5 letter to the chief labor relations officers of CSX Transportation, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, Conrail and the Kansas City Southern.
On October 4, the UTU announced it had signed a Letter of Intent with six of the nation's rail carriers regarding "expeditious" implementation of remote control technology.
"Please be advised that as the duly accredited bargaining representative for the craft of locomotive engineer on each of the properties signatory to the Letter of Intent, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers possesses the exclusive right to bargain collectively on all issues affecting the engineers employed on your properties," the President's letter stated. "This right would include bargaining over the implementation and utilization of remote control technology"
"In our opinion, the Letter of Intent is an attempt by the parties to circumvent the law and violate our rights as an organization to bargain on behalf of our members."
President Hahs noted that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) still has not issued enforceable guidelines governing the use of remote control technology, as requested by the BLE in November of 2000.
"If UTU is prepared to abandon its previously stated commitment to rail safety with this apparent sweetheart deal with the carriers, we have to question whether the UTU is really committed to rail worker solidarity, as it claims," President Hahs said. "This attempted power grab by UTU, illegal and ill-advised, is a signal to rail workers that UTU is not working in their best interests."
In July of 2000, the FRA held a first-of-its-kind Technical Conference on Remote Control Locomotives in Washington D.C., at which time the BLE and UTU maintained a united front and issued joint testimony about the dangers of remote control locomotives.
"(B)ecause of the significance of this issue to the lives and safety of the people working in the industry, UTU and BLE are here today united and speaking with one voice," the UTU testified.
However, President Hahs today expressed dismay that the UTU had wavered from this stance, noting that UTU's Letter of Intent clearly contradicts the previous agreement it made to work together with the BLE.
In an article titled, "UTU and BLE join forces," published on the front page of the August 2000 issue of the UTU News, the UTU reported that, "The UTU and BLE have agreed to work together to develop a joint position on the remote control operation of locomotives."
"We had hoped to continue working jointly with UTU on the remote control issue," President Hahs said. "But after yesterday's actions, we acted swiftly to protect the jobs and working conditions of BLE members. That's our top priority."
© 2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers