Bargaining Update: April 2017

Published: Apr 18 2017 4:06PM


On April 6, 2017, the BMWED-SMART/Mechanical Bargaining Coalition conducted another mediation session with the railroads. Nothing of substance happened.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) committed to next meeting with the BMWED-SMART/Mechanical Bargaining Coalition on June 20 and 21, 2017. However, the NCCC lead negotiator also advised that it has four mediation sessions scheduled with the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) between now and June. While the BMWED-SMART/Mechanical Bargaining Coalition wishes the CBG the best during their scheduled mediation sessions, we are not optimistic because the railroads have yet to respond to prior bargaining proposals.

The BMWED-SMART/Mechanical Coalition and the TCU coalition presented the railroads -- in separate bargaining sessions -- with bargaining proposals that should serve as a reasonable basis for a settled agreement. Those proposals involved modest plan design changes coupled with a re-bid of the network providers for the entire Plan. The net savings from these proposed changes exceed the savings from the plan design changes made in the 2012 National Bargaining round, but with much less cost-shifting to members, because these substantial savings accrue through the rebidding of the networks.

Moreover, the BMWED-SMART/Mechanical Coalition’s February 7th proposal provided for improvements to other employee benefits, such as dental, vision and accidental death and dismemberment, and improvement to away-from-home expenses, along with employee protections and fair wage increases. The benefit improvements and wage increases are more than justifiable given the railroads tremendous profitability and financial positions comparable to that of prior bargaining rounds. Nevertheless, the railroads have failed to seriously respond to our proposal, as well as the TCU coalition’s.

Optimism of the CBG reaching a respectable voluntary agreement over the next few months is further diminished by the lack of up-to-date data from the Plan vendors. The NCCC previously raised concerns about our proposal on account of the “freshness of data.” The BMWED/SMART-Mechanical Coalition’s expert healthcare consultant made data requests over six months ago. Unfortunately, however, the vendors have failed to produce the most up to date data for various reasons. The bottom line is that if the railroads raised the concern about the “freshness of data” and they have not received such data, they cannot engage in substantive negotiations with any bargaining coalition if “fresh data” is truly a concern.

“We are not at impasse, but we are waiting for the railroads to give a serious response to our February 7th proposal.” said President Simpson. “I am concerned that the railroads do not want to have further mediation sessions with us for two months. I am hopeful that during this hiatus, they take the time to seriously consider our proposal and be prepared to come to the table in June. Railroad members deserve fair wages and respectable healthcare benefits, and the railroads are going to make it as difficult as possible for us to get that. We all must to stand together to reach a respectable agreement during this round of bargaining.”

President Simpson will be giving a recorded bargaining update that will be posted on the BMWED Youtube page on Wednesday, April 12th.