BMWE Reaches Contract with Railroads

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees has reached a tentative agreement with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents the nation’s railroads.

The agreement must now be ratified by the union members. The BMWE has 27,500 members.

The contract establishes wages and work rules that are similar to those reached last year by two other unions, but on health care the BMWE and carriers agreed to binding arbitration.

More than 70 percent of the almost 145,000 unionized freight rail employees have now ratified agreements with the 30 freight railroads represented by the Conference Committee.

This includes the American Train Dispatchers Association (1,600 members); Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (27,200); Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (8,500); Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (11,100); the Transportation and Yardmaster divisions of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (44,000); National Conference of Firemen and Oilers (2,800); and Transportation Communications International Union (6,300).

Unions that continue to negotiate with the Conference Committee include the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (7,600 members); International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (6,400); and International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Blacksmiths, Iron Ship Builders, Forgers and Helpers.

Bargaining for new contracts began in January 2015. The federal Railway Labor Act requires that existing agreement provisions on wages, benefits and work rules remain in force until revised through collective bargaining, binding arbitration or congressional legislation.

The most recent contracts ratified by the unions will not be subject to renegotiation before Jan. 1, 2020.

A Railway Age analysis is that the new contracts will put almost $33,000 more into the pockets of the highest-paid workers by mid-2019, and more than $16,000 into the paychecks of those in the lower wage rungs. There are no work rules changes.

Employee monthly premiums for health care insurance are capped at $288 a month through mid-2020. The railroads will continue to pay about 90 percent of all employee healthcare costs.

Amtrak negotiates separately with about a dozen unions and it has reached new contracts with conductors and engineers that are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015.

Those agreements increase wages by almost 19 percent through July 2021 and cap employee healthcare contributions.

Amtrak continues to negotiate with the BMWE and other labor organizations.

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