Posts Tagged ‘International Association of Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Workers’

SMART Members OK Rail Pact

December 5, 2017

Members of a fourth railroad labor union have voted to ratify a new national contract with U.S. freight railroads.

The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers approved the contract, which was negotiated by the Coordinated Bargaining Group with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee.

The contract covers SMART members working at BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Southern, Union Pacific and numerous smaller carriers, union officials said in a news release.


Health Care Costs Stymie Rail Labor Talks

December 1, 2017

After three years of talks, some railroad labor unions have been unable to reach an agreement with U.S. railroads over health care coverage.

Two unions have been able to reach tentative agreements that the unions say will preserve existing work rules and give their members a raise.

But a coalition of unions representing mechanical and maintenance-of-way workers has contended that the advances made by the other unions have come at the expense of health care benefits.

The union members who are at odds with the railroads are part of the United Transportation Union of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

The UTU argues that concessions on health care will force almost half of railroad families to pay an average of between $3,900 and $5,000 for health care. Some members would see their health care costs increase by $9,000.

Hanging over the heads of union members is the prospect that if they strike then Congress will order them back to work. Union leaders fear that if that happens the Trump administration could intervene in an effort to favor the position of the railroad industry.

The federal Railway Labor Act dictates that collective bargaining agreements in the railroad industry have no expiration date.

Lockouts and strikes are only legal only after an interlude of federally-mediated negotiations.

The last strike of freight railroad workers occurred in 1992.

CSX Union Hits Back at Harrison Obstruction Allegations

August 8, 2017

A CSX labor union has taken issue with assertions by the railroad’s CEO E. Hunter Harrison that some CSX workers are the reason for service issues.

In a letter to CSX shippers, Harrison contended that some CSX employees were resisting the changes that management has made in operations and that this was resulting in service disruptions.

Railway Age magazine reported Monday that it obtained a copy of a letter sent to Harrison last week by the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, which represents some CSX operating employees.

The letter was signed by SMART’s five co-chairmen and said that the union “ . . . refuses to accept responsibility for disruptions that negatively affect the customers when we have no input on operational changes. We receive minimal, and in most cases, no communication from any department about the significant changes being implemented almost daily.”

The letter said that Harrison has ignored the union’s repeated requests to be involved in planning changes and that it viewed the CEO’s charges as “a personal attack,” “a kick to the gut,” and “a severe blow to [employees’] morale.”

SMART criticized CSX for what the union termed “harsh treatment, furloughs and repeated violations of their collective bargaining agreement.”

In denying Harrison’s allegations that union members had intentionally disrupted operations, the SMART letter said, “This organization will not allow our members to serve as an excuse for management’s inability to communicate and execute your ‘precision scheduled railroading.”

The magazine reported in late July that CSX had changed work hours from four 10-hour days to five eight-hour days in an effort to reduce train delays.

However, that has made it more difficult for employees working far from home to get to work and back in a reasonable length of time.

AAR, Unions Spar Over Brake Inspection Waiver

September 30, 2016

The railroad industry is pushing the Federal Railroad Administration to allow unit freight trains to travel up to 2,600 miles between air brake inspections.

FRABut the proposal being pushed by the Association of American Railroads is being resisted by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

The AAR wants the FRA grant a waiver so railroads can check if wheel temperature detectors can replace a mandatory visual inspection.

The pilot program would be undertaken on the Union Pacific on coal trains operating between the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and an unloading terminal in White Bluff, Arkansas.

Under current federal law, the air brakes on a unit train must be inspected every 1,500 miles.

Wheel detectors measure temperature of the entire wheel and railroad industry officials argue that an abnormal wheel temperature reading is a more accurate measurement of whether the braking system is working.

They note that a visual inspection does not take temperature into consideration. Railroad hot box detectors measure the temperature of the wheel’s journal.

AAR contends that relying on wheel temperature detectors will increase employee safety.

The BLET, though, counters that using wheel temperature detectors to replace visual brake
inspections is a poor use of the technology.

“BLET believes [temperature detectors] should be deployed in the field and utilized for their intended use of examining wheel temperature in between terminals. [Detectors] should not, however, be used as a pretext for dodging regulatory safety standards,” said Vincent G. Verna, BLET’s regulatory affairs director.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union, Transportation Division officials are also asking the FRA to deny the AAR’s request.

The FRA will be taking comments on the AAR proposal through Oct. 13. A decision is not expected for several months after that.

FRA Gets Earful on 2-Person Crew Proposal

June 17, 2016

More than 1,400 people and organizations have commented on a proposed Federal Railroad Administration rule that would mandate two-person crews on most trains.

Not surprisingly, two railroad trade groups opposed the rule while railroad workers – whose comments made up the bulk of the comments received – are in favor of it.

FRAThe workers, most of them locomotive engineers and conductors, told stories of incidents they had encountered on the job that would have been difficult if not impossible for one person to address.

The trade groups, included the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, have questioned the safety benefits the rule would deliver.

AAR said there is a lack of hard information showing that the rule would materially improve railroad safety.

The FRA has acknowledged it lacks data showing that two-person crews are inherently safer than one-person crews.

The AAR has cited several studies finding strong safety records of single-crew operation around the world.

The railroad trade groups contend that the two-person rule would be an economic burden on railroads that already operate trains with one crew member as well prevent hinder efforts to reduce crew sizes in the future through technological innovations or negotiation.

Supporting the rule are railroad labor unions, who contend that the two-person crew rule will make operations safer for employees and the public.

In a joint statement, the unions said the only safe way to operate a train is with a crew of at least two people, both of whom are federally certified.

The unions, which include the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail Transportation workers Transportation Division cited crew member fatigue as the industry’s top safety issue.

They pointed to unpredictable work hours and too many required tasks putting added pressures on crew members and making their work more complex.

The FRA will conduct public hearings on July 15.

Unions Back FRA 2-Person Crew Rule

March 17, 2016

Two railroad labor unions are supporting a proposed rule by the Federal Railroad Administration that would require a two-person crew aboard trains in most circumstances.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen have long argued that having a second crew member in the locomotive cab enhances railroad safety.

BLET“Our view is that one-person operations are unsafe under any circumstances and we believe issuing this proposed rule is a critical first step in helping to ensure that our nation’s trains are operated fully staffed with two qualified crew members,” says SMART President John Previsich. “Airplanes are not allowed to fly with just one pilot, and for sound safety reasons trains, many hauling hazardous materials — should be no different. The check, double check, and extra set of eyes and ears watching both sides of the train and the division of tasks are safety measures that cannot be replaced by rules or technology.”

At the same time, the unions are concerned about certain provisions of the FRA rule.

Specifically, the unions are critical of the phrase “loss of situational awareness,” which an FRA report said is what occurs when a crew member is distracted by multiple tasks.

“The words ‘loss of situational awareness’ are merely management code words for blaming the employee who has been bogged down with too many tasks, duties, and distractions,” the unions said in a news release. “Task overload does lead to increased fatigue and attention capture that pose genuine and quantifiable safety risks in the railroad industry.”

Another concern raised by the union is that the FRA rule would allow single-person crews on some trains on long-haul runs.

The unions said the proposed rule would allow railroads to use one-person crews provided that they take extra steps to protect employees, the public and the environment.

The FRA has said that it is likely that railroads that already have single-person crews would be able to get approval to continue them.

The FRA is currently accepting public comment about its proposed rule. The comment period will end in 60 days.

The single-person rule has been in the works for more than two years.

Earlier this week, the Association of American Railroads said it opposes mandating two-person crews. The AAR said there is no safety case to be made for such a rule and that positive train control systems will lead to safer railroad operations, even with one-person crews.

Unions continue to promote the Safe Freight Act, which would require all trains to have at least two people in the cab.

“Technology will never be able to safely replace the eyes and ears of our highly-trained, experienced and professional two-person train crews,” said BLET President Dennis R. Pierce.

Labor Unions Opposing CP-NS Merger

January 21, 2016

Railroad labor unions are lining up in opposition to a proposed takeover of Norfolk Southern by Canadian Pacific.

Among the unions sending letters of opposition to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and other public offices are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, the Transportation Communications Union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; and the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers union.

Also announcing its opposition later in the week was the Teamsters.

In general, the unions argue that the merger would not be in the best interests of their members, shippers or the public.

The NS board of directors has spurned offers from CP to acquire NS stock. A formal merger proposal has yet to be filed with the STB.

BLET President Dennis R. Pierce’s told the STB that there is no benefit to a CP-NS merger and that it could result in layoffs at both railroads.

“CP’s proposal . . . appears designed to simply loot NS assets to generate even more cash that can be sucked out of the railroad for the exclusive benefit of shareholders and investors, and to the detriment of everyone else,” Pierce wrote.

SMART President John Previsich made similar comments, and singled out CP head E. Hunter Harrison for criticism.

“His strategy is clear; use up the current railroad infrastructure and wear out the locomotives, leaving a railroad that will need dramatic investment once he leaves,” Previsich wrote. “The railroads’ officers, investment bankers, consultants and stockholders will walk away greatly enriched at the expense of the future health of our nation’s rail service.”

Union leaders also raised the specter of a CP-NS merger triggering another round of railroad mergers.

“If other railroads are forced to respond in kind, the rail freight industry nationally could find itself in the sort of death spiral – of job cuts and deferred plant and equipment maintenance leading to reduced services, leading to further job cuts and more deferred plant and equipment maintenance, and so on – that the Northeast and Midwest sectors saw between the late 1960s and late 1970s,” Pierce said.

CSX Reaches Tentative Pact With 2 Unions

September 30, 2015

Two labor unions and CSX have reached tentative agreement on a new contract that all parties say will provide for more workplace flexibility.

The pact must still be approved in a vote of members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

Members of both unions will be able to perform a variety of assigned work beyond the traditional boundaries of craft or union affiliation. The new contract will also provide pay increases through an hourly skill differential, enhanced ability to retain employment, benefits and connection to railroad retirement, and an ability to perform additional locomotive rebuild work in-house with CSX employees.

CSX said in a news release that the agreement builds on a similar work-sharing structure implemented at the company’s Huntington Locomotive Shop in 2013.

“This agreement is part of CSX’s focus on promoting a flexible workforce to meet changing business demands, and developing opportunities to retain and support our highly skilled workforce,” said Cressie Brown, CSX vice president, labor relations.