Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak labor unions’

Amtrak Workers Protest Outsourcing

April 25, 2019

Three Chicago area Congressmen joined Amtrak workers on Wednesday for a rally to protest what the workers have described as “a hostile turn” in labor relations.

Reps. Dan Lipikski, Chuy Garcia and Jan Schakowsky appeared at a Unite Here rally conducted by the Transportation Communications Union and the Transport Workers Union.

The unions are decrying Amtrak’s decision to outsource work and proposals by the Trump administration to reduce Amtrak funding, particularly for long-distance routes.

Safety Chief Sees Progress, More Work to Do

December 23, 2018

Kenneth Hylander faced a tall order when he agreed to take over as Amtrak’s chief safety officer in January 2018.

Hylander

Nearly a year later, he told Progressive Railroading that much work remains to be done to transform the safety culture at the passenger carrier, but much progress has also been achieved.

Hylander told the magazine that the company has laid the foundation for a new safety culture and employees have received letters explaining safety policies.

During 2019, Amtrak’s safety program will be explained and executed more thoroughly from top to bottom in the organization.

The new safety program, known as a safety management system or SMS, will require time to implement, Hylander told Progressive Railroading.

“If you look at other industries that have gone through this process, it takes a multiyear act to get there,” he said.

Hylander honed his safety program skills at Delta Air Lines, which Amtrak’s CEO Richard Anderson once headed before coming to the rail passenger carrier.

Before coming to Amtrak, Hylander had read the various reports of the National Transportation Safety Board that concluded that Amtrak suffered from a poor safety culture.

Antagonistic relations between management and Amtrak’s labor unions were a major part of that.

Amtrak has suffered a series of high-profile incidents resulting in fatalities to 11 passengers and nine employees since fiscal year 2013. That had brought scrutiny from news media, regulators and transportation policy makers.

“Amtrak’s safety culture is failing, and is primed to fail again, until and unless Amtrak changes the way it practices safety management,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

Amtrak executives contended that they had taken substantive steps to overhaul the railroad’s safety record, including the adoption of a new safety policy, risk-based management procedures, data acquisition and analytics.

That included hiring Hylander, who was well-versed in SMS, a comprehensive approach to managing safety that features policy and documentation procedures, risk assessment, quality assurance and reinforcement of a safety culture throughout an organization.

He told Progressive Railroading that his first task was to study Amtrak’s existing safety policies and procedures, including how they were implemented or not implemented.

He said that review led him to conclude that Amtrak needed to emphasize that every employee is responsible for operating safely on the job.

The Amtrak board of directors adopted a resolution setting the goal of becoming the “safest passenger railroad” in the nation.

The board followed that up by officially updating Amtrak’s safety policy.

“The [new] policy means that every employee has the ability to stop the operation if they see something happening that’s not safe,” Hylander said. “We want to be a data driven organization and we want to learn from our mistakes. And we want employees to tell us about errors through voluntary safety programs, and that we can’t and won’t tolerate unsafe behavior or intentional disregard for safety.”

He told Progressive Railroading that he agreed with the NTSB assessment labor-management relations at Amtrak needed to improve if safety procedures were to be followed and enforced.

That included a recognition that the railroad industry’s practice that an employee is to be disciplined for every rules violations was hindering an open dialogue with employees who observe safety violations.

Hylander said the voluntary safety programs at Amtrak are a good start but need to be more efficient.

“Employees have to feel they can tell us what’s going on without fear of being put in harm’s way through the disciplinary process,” he said.

Hylander has spent much of his first year improving Amtrak’s safety improvement metrics, which include monitoring employee injuries and rule violations.

Amtrak also needed to change how it assessed potential safety risks.

“Now, we have a totally different system for how we’re going to review a situation and make determinations for how we’re going to operate trains,” Hylander said. “Generally, it means we’re a bit more conservative about what happens or what the host railroad rules may say.”

That process led to controversy when Amtrak executives made public statements earlier this year suggesting the carrier would refuse to operate trains on host railroads that have not implemented a positive train control system by Jan. 1, 2019.

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General issued a report saying Amtrak had yet to achieve interoperability with the PTC systems of 19 of his host railroads and was unlikely to do so by the target date at 13 of those railroads.

“From a safety department perspective, we know there will be areas of the country in Amtrak’s system that do not yet have PTC because of a mainline track exclusion or because a host railroad has an alternative [implementation] schedule or will by the end of the year,” Hylander said. “So, we’ve applied our safety risk management principles to those areas and literally, mile by mile, have gone through and assessed the risks, from switches to bridges to rails. We are determining what does our SMS do to mitigate those risks for the areas that are lacking PTC.”

Amtrak has since said that it will do all it can to continue operating all trains over their entire routes.

“We will do everything in our power to operate. We are working closely with the tenant railroads and are putting them through the same safety risk assessment that we’re putting ourselves through,” Hylander said.

As 2019 approaches, Amtrak is preparing to make increased use of data analysis to correct safety issues.

Hylander noted that in the airline industry data from every flight is reviewed for operating anomalies. Those reviews are used to make safety corrections.

He wants to see the same process done for every train trip.

Another area of development is revamping safety training.

“We’re using a new instructional design process, and last year and this year we’ve revisited over 100 classes that are connected to safety training,” Hylander said. “We are putting a more formal, structured process around those classes.”

Amtrak Food Workers Protest Potential Outsourcing

December 23, 2018

Amtrak’s onboard service employees continued to protest last week changes made in food and beverage service, including the potential outsourcing of their jobs.

The employees and their supporters held a rally in front of Boston’s South Station, the latest in a series of demonstrations seeking to bring to public attention changes in meal service and job losses.

Members of Amtrak’s unions fear that the carrier might seek to outsource as many of 1,700 of their members who work in food and beverage jobs.

They called for Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson to be fired, holding up posters of Anderson wearing a top hat with a cartoon-villain mustache drawn on his face.

The union members also gave out fliers of Anderson in a chef hat under the headline, “All aboard the coldcut express!”

Amtrak, Union Agree on Call Center Worker Benefits

December 23, 2018

Amtrak and the labor union representing employees at a reservations call center in California have reached an agreement on a benefits package for those employees after the center closes next month.

The Transportation Communications Union, which represents 500 workers in the Riverside, California, call center, said the package will include a range of options.

However, few details of the agreement have been released.

The agreements calls for some moving expenses to be paid for workers taking jobs at another calls center in Philadelphia. Those opting not to move will receive severance pay.

The California call center is scheduled to close on Jan. 18, 2019.

“This new agreement will help make sure that all union Riverside employees will have a broad range of options to help them meet their individual needs,” Amtrak spokesperson Olivia Irvin said. “The agreement includes full-time employment opportunities with Amtrak in Philadelphia, and more substantial allowances for relocation or voluntary separation.”

She said efforts will be made to find employees other job opportunities in California with Amtrak or another employer.

Jack Dinsdale, national vice president of the union, confirmed that a deal had been reached declined to discuss it became union members had not yet been briefed on it, a process not expected to conclude until after Christmas.

Amtrak Workers Contend Jobs in Jeopardy.

October 11, 2018

The union representing Amtrak food service workers believes that as many as 1,700 of its members may lose their jobs if Amtrak outsources its food service to a contractor.

Some of the union workers protested that prospect during a rally outside New York’s Penn Station this week.

Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen said Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson is “engaged in a slash-and-burn management plan.”

The approximately 100 Amtrak workers also decried Amtrak’s replacement of full-service dining aboard the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited with boxed meals, most of them served cold.

Amtrak acknowledged in a statement that it has cut 14 chef positions, but that all those affected who wanted another position with Amtrak were able to get one.

The Amtrak statement also contended that the change in meal service aboard the Lake Shore and Capitol has been well received by passengers.

Amtrak Workers Demand Meeting With Anderson

July 24, 2018

Members of Amtrak’s labor unions are demanding a meeting with CEO Richard Anderson to discuss changes being made at the carrier.

The workers are members of the Amtrak Service Workers Council, a coalition of unions representing Amtrak’s on board service employees who are unhappy about onboard service changes the carrier has made, in particular the ending of full-service dining on the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited.

Some union members who are represented by Transport Workers Union of America, UNITE-HERE, and the Transportation Communications Union/International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, staged a protest rally recently at Amtrak headquarters in Washington.

The unions are planning similar protests in New York and Chicago.

Anderson briefly spoke to union officials on July 18 and what was said at that time in dispute.

The unions contend that Anderson told the workers to set up a meeting with other Amtrak executives.

But in a statement, Amtrak contends that Anderson intends to meet with the workers to discuss the railroad’s plans to “upgrade the quality of our food and create a more contemporary style of service on some of our long distance trains.”

The unions and Amtrak are also at odds as to the effect of the food service changes.

Amtrak contended in its statement that employees affected by the change have been able to find new positions within the company.

But union officials counter that in reality jobs have been lost and the Amtrak statement fails to present a full picture of how employees have been affected.

John Feltz, a vice president for the TWU, said one Amtrak chef who previously worked on the East Coast now has is working out of New Orleans and being forced to spend more time away from his family getting to and from his assignment.

“Anderson says that no one is going to lose their jobs but he’s 100 percent wrong about that,” Feltz says.

Starting on June 1, Amtrak replaced full-service dining with boxed meals in a program it billed as “contemporary and fresh dining choices” that cater to the needs of a new generation of travelers and improve efficiency and costs.

Union members are also angry about how Amtrak management gave its members little warning of the change.

Feltz says Amtrak told the union in mid-April that it was considering a change to on board service and it wanted to get the views of union members before it announced the changes.

But hours later Amtrak went ahead with its plan to replace hot meals with cold boxed-meals.

Union officials are concerned that ending traditional dining service on two East Coast long distance train is the first step in an effort to eliminate more amenities aboard Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

“They’re trying to run this railroad like an airline,” Feltz said in a reference to Anderson’s previous job as CEO of Delta Airlines.

Amtrak Unions Want Dining Cars Back

June 2, 2018

Labor unions representing Amtrak workers say changes in dining service aboard the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited are threatening jobs and pensions as well as annoying passengers.

The unions want Amtrak to reinstate full dining-car service on the both trains, which serve northern Ohio.

The dining changes, which became effective on June 1, involve providing cold meals to sleeping car passengers.

Amtrak executives have characterized the cost-cutting changes as experimental and pledged to provide at least one hot entrée at a future time.

The executives told the Rail Passengers Association that Amtrak is studying making improvements system-wide food service improvements.

The Amtrak Service Workers Council, however, is not impressed.

“We pledge to do everything in our power to preserve these jobs and the unique Amtrak dining experience,” the council said in a statement.

The council said that seven chefs have been furloughed and given a little more than a week to make a major life decision, meaning moving to Chicago or Seattle in order to continue working for Amtrak.

Some of them have 30 years of service and live on the East Coast.

“Therefore, it is certain that closing dining cars on these routes will have immediate and ripple effects on Amtrak workers across the country, not only those employed on the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited lines.

The union group also took aim at how Amtrak sought to frame the change, issuing a news release and making statements charactering the changes as providing “fresh” and “contemporary” meal service.

The council said the new meal service is nothing more than a cold snack in a cardboard box being delivered to passengers in their rooms.

“Riders are paying close to $1,000 a ticket, only to be fed yogurt and sandwiches? We have been told by our members that passengers already are expressing their dissatisfaction with the upcoming service and meal plan changes,” the council said.

“Our members are on the frontlines, and they know that passengers view the current dining service as part of the experience of riding a train through the country along a long-distance route.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari declined to comment on the council’s statement other than to say the pre-packaged meals are not limited to the examples cited in statements.

Amtrak expects to save $3 million annual by eliminating full-service dining cars from the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Signal Workers OK Pact With Amtrak

May 15, 2018

Members of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen have ratified a new contract with Amtrak, which became effective May 3

The agreement covers nearly 700 members who work in the communications and signal departments.

In a news release, the BRS said the new pact calls for wage increases through 2021 and retroactive back pay, which is expected to be paid before July 1.

Each member’s monthly health-care contribution was slightly decreased and will remain frozen until changed in the next round of bargaining.

New benefits include a new-hire alternative health-care plan starting in 2019.

Amtrak, BRS Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

March 20, 2018

Amtrak and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen have reached a tentative contract covering wages and fringe benefits.

BRS said in a news release that the pact calls for a wage increase through 2021, with an 18.8 percent compounded increase over the life of the agreement.

Also, the new contract calls for freezing the monthly health care contribution, with new benefits provided. It also establishes a new-hire alternative health care plan.

BRS members must vote to ratify the agreement before it goes into effect.

BLET, Amtrak Reach Tentative Pact

March 2, 2018

A union representing locomotive engineers has reached a tentative contract agreement with Amtrak.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said the pact governs pay rates, benefits and work rules for about 1,400 engineers.

BLET has mailed its members ratification ballots and a synopsis of the agreement with voting to be completed by April 1.

The union represents more than 1,400 locomotive engineers who operate Amtrak passenger and commuter trains.