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Friday, October 27, 2017

Amtrak thinning non-agreement ranks

Written by 
Amtrak Executive Vice President, Administration DJ Stadtler Amtrak Executive Vice President, Administration DJ Stadtler

Amtrak has instituted a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) to reduce the number of non-agreement (non-union) employees. The railroad is offering what it’s calling a “generous incentive program” to those who volunteer to leave by Dec. 31—but they must be approved for the program. If enough people don’t step forward, the next step will be layoffs.

“We will be reorganizing to meet our goals for 2018 and beyond,” Executive Vice President, Administration DJ Stadtler said in an email letter to all non-agreement employees. “We need to improve our safety culture, we need to be obsessed with giving our customers a better experience—and we must lower our operating costs. We must make changes to how we are organized to get this done. Right now, our non-agreement team is too big. We must deliver more results with fewer people.”

Employees who have served in a non-agreement position for at least one year as of Dec. 31, 2017 are eligible to apply for “Management Voluntary Separation Incentive Program benefit.” The election to participate period is from Nov. 6 through Nov. 17.

A document obtained by Railway Age states:

“Employees must submit a signed Election to Participate form during this period and will be notified if their application is accepted. This notification will also identify the last day of their employment with Amtrak. It will be necessary that the employee execute a release agreement subsequent to their resignation date in order to receive any VSIP benefits. Employees who elect to participate will be considered to have resigned from all Amtrak employment and will not be eligible to mark up to an agreement position. All payments will be a single lump-sum amount less appropriate taxes and other withholdings. The minimum gross payment for any employee is $15,000.00. The maximum gross payment will equal two weeks of regular salary for every year of completed service up to 26 weeks gross pay. Employees will continue their medical coverage for them and their dependents under COBRA at the same contribution rate as active employees.”

“Most employees who are granted a VSIP will leave the company by Dec. 31,” Stadtler said. “In some select cases, an employee may be asked to stay for a transition period beyond Dec. 31.”

“If we do not get enough voluntary separations in December to complete this process, we will take the painful next step of initiating involuntary separations in January,” Stadtler added. “The benefits for involuntary separations are substantially less than the benefits for voluntary separations.”

Stadtler said employees will be updated during the week of Dec. 4 if enough VSIP applications are received to avoid involuntary reductions. “If we must have involuntary reductions, they would not be initiated until after Jan. 2. We commit to you that we will have this reorganization completed by the end of January.”

Stadtler acknowledged in his letter that the announcement “will create a certain level of anxiety.” He said employees “should all work together to keep the lines of communication open as we work through this process. Also, I ask that you stay focused on keeping yourself and those around you safe.”