IBEW Approves National Contract with Railroad Owners
Nearly 3,000 members of the IBEW voted on September 14 to ratify the first national contract with the freight railroad carriers in over three years. Over 65 percent of members who voted supported the deal, with 1896 voting for ratification and 1009 against.
More than 36,000 union members reached a tentative agreement with the railroad carriers on July 17. To date, 12 out of the 14 rail labor unions have now settled with the freight railroads, with only the International Association of Machinists and the United Transportation Union still having not yet ratified new agreements.
“The railroads have been making money hand over fist while we were working without a contract,” said IBEW Railroad Department Director Bill Bohne’. “We are glad to have reached an agreement that makes some real progress for our members, and are pleased that our members ratified it.”
A coalition of four unions – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Association of Machinists, the Transportation Communications Union, and the Transport Workers Union – reached the agreement with the railroad industry’s negotiating group, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee.
The IBEW represents approximately 6,000 electrical workers on more than 30 freight railroads covered by the new agreement, including Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and Indiana Harbor Belt.
The five-year agreement – which is to retroactively start January 2005 and run through December 2009 – includes a 17-percent wage increase over the life of the contract, retroactive pay averaging $2,600 per employee, no work rule changes and only a modest increase in healthcare cost sharing. For the first time, the railroads agreed to set health care premium co-pays at 15 percent of the monthly cost.
Negotiations began in late 2004 just prior to the January 1, 2005 contract expiration, but the railroads resisted negotiations. After two years of working without a contract, the four unions filed for mediation before the National Mediation Board, an independent government agency that coordinates labor relations in the railroad and airline industry. The parties returned to the table in January of this year, following prompting by the Democrat-led Congress.
“Hard work at the bargaining table and solidarity in the field made this agreement possible,” said International President Edwin D. Hill. “We are now looking forward to working with the railroads over the next few years in conjunction with the IBEW Code of Excellence to improve the working conditions and livelihoods of our members who work so hard to make these railroads profitable.”