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Amtrak, NS Ratify Agreements With Unions

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
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Following a year and a half of successful negotiations, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 19 has ratified an agreement with Amtrak. Meanwhile, members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD), represented by General Committees of Adjustment GO-898, GO-687 and GO-680, have voted to ratify their tentative agreement with Norfolk Southern (NS). Also, SMART-TD and NS reach yardmaster sick leave deal.

According to IAM District 19, improvements to the union’s contract with Amtrak include a 30% wage increase over the life of the contract, which compounded is a 34.1% increase. Other enhancements to the contract are as follows:

  • Apprenticeship as follows 85% 90% 95% of journeyman rate of pay.
  • MLK Day added to holidays.
  • Conversion from National Vacation Agreement to PTO Agreement.
  • 10 weeks of paid parental leave.
  • Enhanced family planning coverage.
  • Enhanced hearing aid coverage.
  • Life insurance increased to $50,000.
  • Accidental death and dismemberment increased to $25,000.
  • Enhancements to the bereavement leave rules.

Retroactive payments that result from the implementation of this agreement, IAM District 19 says, will be made to employees within 90 days’ notice of the ratification.

“The decision of our membership to ratify this historic agreement shows the willingness to change and make things better for those who are yet to come,” wrote IAM District 19 General Chairman Daniel N. Tavares, III, in a letter to members. “I am prouder than ever to be a member of this great organization. Again, I want to thank and congratulate our membership for a job well done.”

SMART-TD members participating in the vote to ratify the tentative agreement with NS approved the new contract with approximately 60% in favor of ratification. The ratified contract provides for:

  • Additional time off and scheduled rest days.
  • 5 paid sick days with the option to convert up to 2 personal leave days to on-demand sick days.
  • Unused personal leave days can now be carried over and accumulated indefinitely, with no limitations.
  • More predictable scheduling process to use paid leave and vacation days.
  • Compensation increases beyond those already provided for via national bargaining, with shift differential pay for weekend assignments.
  • Continuous detention/held-away pay beginning after 15 hours, paid continuously until the on-duty time at the away-from-home terminal.
  • Increased away-from-home terminal meal allowances.
  • More predictable work and flexibility in time off.

General Chairpersons Tommy Gholson (GO-898), Jim Ball (GO-687), David Phillips (GO-680), Assistant General Chairpersons Andrew Evans (GO-680), Jason Roberts (GO-898) and Brian Sharkey (GO-687), along with SMART-TD Vice President Brent Leonard, negotiated the now-ratified agreement.

Following the tabulation of votes on June 2, Ball said, “This is a proud day for all of us who were involved in getting this agreement hammered out. We got our brothers and sisters more compensation, better schedules, and the dignity that comes with having paid sick days so we can take care of our families and not get our coworkers sick in the meantime.”

“These changes have been a long time coming,” said Gholson. “Our members have been screaming especially for the quality-of-life upgrades that came with this agreement, but in this industry, those improvements have to be fought for. Nothing is given. We knew that going in, and with the help of Vice President Leonard, we got our members a great deal. We want everyone involved to know that we addressed every issue we set out to address and a little more, but the fight is far from over. We have momentum, and we aren’t done advocating for the front-line workers of NS.”

 “This agreement is historic not only for what it brings to the table for the train service crafts, but it also raised the bar to the degree that engineers will see the quality-of-life enhancements negotiated by SMART-TD,” said Phillips. “The language we worked on for five months set a pattern and a high bar that required the carrier to extend those enhancements to other crafts. As such, every member of our crew rooms are able to benefit from the fortitude of SMART-TD.

“I have worked as a SMART engineer, and speaking as a SMART engineer, it is very satisfying to see the hard work of SMART benefit those of us working in the Enginemen craft.”

“I want to start by congratulating the SMART-TD members of NS on the significant pay raises and quality of life improvements they just obtained,” said Leonard. “General Chairpersons Phillips, Gholson, and Ball deserve ample recognition for their dedication to hammering out this historic agreement. This is a big win for those General Committees and the members they represent.”

“The rail industry has always been built on the backs of conductors and trainmen,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “Our NS members and their elected representatives have stood up for themselves and demanded to be compensated both financially and with lifestyle improvements that are more in line with the importance of the work they do. I am excited to see these well-earned victories with sick days and schedule flexibility, and I am hopeful that this win for our NS brothers and sisters leads the way towards similar improvements across the industry.”

Separately, NS and SMART-TD announced June 5 that they have reached an agreement with representatives for their final group of craft employees—yardmasters— to provide up to seven paid sick days per year.

The agreement, the Class I says, will immediately provide NS yardmasters with four new days of paid sick leave per year while also offering them the flexibility to use up to three additional days of existing paid time off as sick leave.

With this agreement, NS is the first Class I to have negotiated paid sick leave agreements for 100% of its craft workforce.

“This agreement will provide our hardworking yardmasters the time they need and deserve to take care of their personal wellbeing,” said Ferguson. “I want to thank NS for their partnership on this deal, and for leading the industry as the first railroad to sign sick leave agreements for every one of our dedicated union members. And most importantly, I want to thank our SMART-TD general chairmen, Joe Borders and Dan Weir, for negotiating this important new benefit for NS yardmasters.”

This final paid sick leave agreement for yardmasters builds on the momentum from the comprehensive quality-of-life package that NS and SMART-TD negotiated last month for another group of SMART-TD members—conductors and trainmen. The conductor and trainmen agreement, which included paid sick leave, was ratified by union membership last Friday.

“Following national labor negotiations, we committed to address quality of life issues for our craft railroaders. With today’s agreement, we make good on that promise,” said NS President and CEO Alan Shaw. “I am proud of our team for working collaboratively with union leadership over the last four months to reach agreements that benefit all of our craft colleagues.”

Although this agreement is an important milestone for paid sick leave, NS says it “remains actively engaged with all its labor partners to further explore and negotiate the quality-of-life benefits that will have the greatest positive impact for its employees and position NS as an industry leader and employer of choice.”

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