July 24, 2014

Record pay boost in UTU tentative rail pact

A 17 percent pay increase, retention of the $200 monthly cap on health care cost-sharing, FRA certification pay, a faster process for new hires to reach full pay rates, and no rollback of the January 2011 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) highlight the new five-year national rail agreement negotiated between the UTU and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC).

Railroads represented by the NCCC include BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and many smaller railroads. Some 38,000 UTU members, including yardmasters, are covered by the tentative new agreement.

UTU District 1 general chairpersons voted unanimously June 2 to submit the tentative agreement to the membership for ratification under the craft autonomy provisions of the UTU constitution. The general chairpersons also voted unanimously to recommend ratification.

General chairpersons now have until June 20 to submit questions regarding details of the tentative agreement. The questions will be submitted to the NCCC for answers. The agreed-upon questions and answers will become part of the tentative contract submitted to the membership for ratification.

Additionally, forums will be scheduled nationwide at which UTU International officers will brief members on the contract’s details and respond to member questions. A ratification vote will later be scheduled.

“In the 41-year history of the UTU, this wage increase is the highest in excess of the current and projected consumer price index,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey. The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, is a barometer of prices for goods and services as measured by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Combined with the previous agreement this administration reached with the NCCC in January 2008, our members will realize a more than 40 percent increase in their base wages at the conclusion of this agreement, if it is ratified,” Futhey said. “A UTU member earning $80,000 in 2007 will be earning about $112,000 on the same job by 2015.”

The tentative agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, and extends through Dec. 31, 2014. The contract provides that retroactive pay, commencing with the July 1, 2010, increase, will be made by the carriers within 60 days of the effective date of the final agreement.

The cap on employee health care cost contributions is a major provision of the tentative agreement. The $200 cap on monthly contributions compares with an average of more than $340 monthly paid by workers in other industries.

Without the negotiated $200 cap, and under provisions of current UTU agreements, UTU member health care cost contributions could soar to $355 monthly by 2015.

To retain the current $200 monthly cap, adjustments are made to copayments to reflect more economical ways to purchase medicines and reduce plan costs.

A new annual deductible is capped at $200 per individual ($400 per family), and an out-of-pocket maximum of $1,000 per individual ($2,000 per family) can be reached only if family medical costs exceed $40,000, which statistically affects only two percent of members.

The national rail agreement’s five-year entry rates provision has been amended to four years. Individuals under the five-year plan — as of May 1 and until the effective date of the final agreement — will receive a one-time $3,000 payment. Individuals on properties with modified service-scale rules will receive a one-time payment of $1,200. Individuals under entry-rate agreements that commence at 90 percent, and increase to 100 percent within two years, shall not receive a bonus payment.

Additionally, the tentative agreement provides that local agreements may be negotiated — not subject to binding arbitration if the sides cannot agree — for alternative compensation, compensated leave, compensation enhancement, and electronic bidding and bumping.

Yardmasters have essentially the same agreement, but with additional pay increases unique to their craft.

The UTU national negotiating team, in addition to Futhey, included Assistant President Arty Martin; National Legislative Director James Stem; UTU International Vice Presidents Robert Kerley and Delbert Strunk; and General Chairpersons John Lesniewski (CSX, GO 049), Pate King (NS, GO 680) and Doyle Turner (CSX, GO 347).

To read the tentative national agreements, select one of the links below:

To view a comparison of historic general wage increases to the Consumer Price Index, click here.