COLLECTIVE BARGAINING UPDATE

Carriers cite high cost of health care in negotiations

In a November 13 letter to Rail Labor, the National Railway Labor Conference cited an 87% increase in health care costs as the biggest stumbling blocks to the current round of contract negotiations.

The letter, written by NRLC Chairman Robert T. Allen, further states:

"(I)t was necessary to increase the carriers' payment rate for health and life insurance benefits by 18.5%. The new carrier payment rate is about $836 per employee per month. Over the last three years, our payment rate has increased by almost 87%. As you know, for the past two years or longer, we have been discussing the fact that carriers can no longer afford to pay this rapidly escalating cost."

The letter was addressed to Robert A. Scardelletti, Chairman of the Health and Welfare Coalition of Railway Labor Organizations. Brother Scardelletti is also President of the Transportation Communications Union (TCU).

Allen suggested specific concessions Rail Labor could make to offset the rapidly increasing cost of healthcare.

However, in a conference call among the Rail Labor chiefs on November 14, all unanimously agreed against the concessions.

Rail Labor agreed that it would not make sense to agree to concessions without some kind of gains for the employees. Rail Labor also argued that the carriers could not "cherry pick" and ask for agreement on certain concessions without bargaining on the entire package (health and welfare, work rules and compensation).

Earlier this year, the carriers reached contract agreement with the United Transportation Union. However, the agreement has not been ratified because of disputes surrounding a letter of understanding. Also, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes reached agreement with the carriers. BMWE agreed to various wage concessions to prevent the carriers from contracting out maintenance of way work.

 

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers