Rail Teamsters Reject Early Deal

December 11, 2007: Teamster engineers have voted down an early deal in a close vote on the Norfolk Southern.

BLET negotiators asked members to accept a new contract that would last until 2014, but rank-and-file Teamsters voted down the proposed deal by 1,143 votes No to 1,050 votes Yes. The current on-property agreement does not expire until 2009.

The proposed agreement would have continued a controversial bonus pay system, but reduced the bonus after 2009. Under the bonus system, members are paid a bonus in lieu of wage increases, based on financial goals set by the company. One engineer complained on the web: “We assume all the risk and the NS risks ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.”

The proposed agreement also contained language that could take away vacations from some engineers off work for illness or disability. Plus, the agreement failed to guarantee the work of yard engineers. Yard Teamsters voted heavily against the agreement.

BLET officials campaigned hard for a big Yes vote. In a letter supporting the deal, BLET Vice President Marcus Reuf called members who opposed the contract “haters.”

In the end, enough BLET members decided to hold out for a better deal.

With this deal rejected, will the General Chairmen reach out to the members to find out what they want? Many members want a more secure wage structure, and they are worried about the rising cost of insurance premiums. Working conditions were once again completely ignored in this agreement.

It’s not clear if the BLET will return to the table right away, or if they will wait until the expiration is closer.

One thing is for sure: if Norfolk Southern wants an early deal, we need to use that leverage to win gains in our new contract—not to bargain away our hard-fought standards.

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