Amtrak's new president remains vague on labor issues, Þres Þve top executives
Amtrak's new President and CEO Alexander Kummant provided vague answers to questions about rail labor in a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Railroads.
Under questioning by Representative Steven LaTourette, the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Kummant acknowledged that only 30 percent of employees were currently under contract and many of Amtrak's employees were not paid at rates competitive to those in freight service. However, he also noted, to the consternation of rail labor, Amtrak needed to be able to flexibly manage its workforce.
BLET members who work for Amtrak have been without a contract for more than six years.
Rep. LaTourette also said that Amtrak needed long term funding, which Kummant also agreed was necessary.
"Congress has a history of giving Amtrak just enough (funding) to fail," Representative LaTourette said.
In his opening statement, Kummant acknowledged that passenger rail needs investment. "At a time of high oil prices, growing highway and airport congestion and record rail freight volumes, problems which beset and constrain our transportation system, we should be embracing rail and developing it as quickly and as responsibly as we can," he said. "We should get beyond the debate of a few hundred million dollars of operating costs and begin to realize the potential rail passenger service has to offer with the right level of investment and a clearly defined federal policy."
The hearing was Kummant's first public appearance since he was named President and CEO. He was selected by the Amtrak board in early September and began work on September 12.
"I look forward working with Mr. Kummant," BLET President Don Hahs said. "I hope that his dedication to Amtrak extends to the employees whose passion and commitment have kept the railroad running these many years and are in desperate need of a new contract."
On December 15, it was reported by the New York Times that Kummant fired five top Amtrak executives in an unusually large management shake-up.
Among those who lost their jobs was the railroad's general counsel and corporate secretary, Alicia M. Serfaty. In October, Amtrak's inspector general reported that its legal department had mismanaged contracts with outside lawyers
The four others removed were the chief financial officer, David Smith; the police chief, Alfred J. Broadbent; the vice president for marketing and sales, Barbara J. Richardson; and the head of the corporate communications department, William Schulz.
© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen