Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak worker furloughs’

Amtrak Says Congress Can Mandate Daily Service

January 30, 2021

Amtrak has signaled that if Congress wants long-distance trains to operate daily rather than tri-weekly it can make that happen by mandating it and providing funding.

Since last October all of Amtrak’s long-distance routes have operated on tri-weekly or quad-weekly schedules.

At the time those reduced schedules were implemented Amtrak cited steep ridership declines that followed in the wake of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has since said that daily operation of those trains will be restored once they meet certain public health, ridership and future demand criteria.

However, in a statement Amtrak said Congress could override those standards.

“If Congress provides the direction and the needed funding, we would restore long-distance services to daily,” Amtrak said.

Earlier in the week, Amtrak had asked Congress for $1.5 million in emergency pandemic aid, saying that money is needed to recall workers furloughed last year and avoid future furloughs during the balance of the federal fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30.

Amtrak’s subsequent statement was an elaboration of how the passenger carrier would use the money it has requested.

Aside from reducing the frequency of operation of long-distance trains, Amtrak has suspended operations of some state-funded corridor trains as the states funding those trains have reduced how much they are spending on Amtrak service.

In its statement, Amtrak said employees who worked aboard those suspended trains would still be recalled if Amtrak gets the money it requested.

These recalls will be made even if individual states opt not to increase their funding of Amtrak corridor services and thus the trains they once worked aboard remain suspended.

Those recalled workers “could go wherever their seniority allows them; it might not be on an extra board, but they would be recalled and employed,” Amtrak said in the statement.

Amtrak Warns of More Job, Service Cuts if it Doesn’t Get More Federal Funding in FY2021

October 10, 2020

Amtrak is again warning of service cuts and job furloughs unless Congress gives it more money.

The passenger carrier has notified lawmakers that it needs $4.857 billion for fiscal year 2021 on top of its earlier FY2021 budget request pf $2.040 billion that it made last February.

Amtrak President William Flynn said in a letter to congressional leaders that Amtrak has suffered a “dramatic loss in ridership and revenue” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the second time the carrier has sought additional funding above its initial FY2021 funding request.

In late May Amtrak sought $1.475 billion in additional funding, which increased its FY2021 budget request to $3.515 billion.

“Since then, we have seen that our ridership is not returning as quickly or at the levels that we had hoped for,” Flynn said.

The letter did not identify specific trains that may be at risk of suspension and/or discontinuance, but suggested that cuts would fall on state-supported corridor services and Northeast Corridor trains.

It also warned that 2,400 jobs would be pared if Amtrak’s federal funding does not increase. Capital spending projects in the works would also have to be deferred.

An appendix to the letter said state corridor service could be reduced by up to 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels because state payments will increase to unaffordable levels.

Amtrak has contracts with 20 partners in 17 states in support of 28 state-supported routes.

Flynn’s letter also listed $5.193 billion in projects that could be part of economy stimulus programs, including major infrastructure projects, new rolling stock, and station improvements. These projects could generate more than 75,000 jobs.

Amtrak is currently receiving federal funding under a continuing resolution approved by Congress during the last week of September that funds the federal government at FY2020 levels through Dec. 11.

Flynn’s letter expressed concern that Congress may opt later this year to continue to fund the passenger carrier at that level.

 “If the [FY2020{ funding level is extended beyond Dec. 11, 2020, and supplemental funding has not yet been provided we will be unable to avoid more drastic impacts that could have long-lasting effects on our Northeast Corridor infrastructure and the national rail system,” Flynn wrote.

Of the $4.857 billion that Amtrak is seeking, $3.227 billion would go to Amtrak’s services and capital program with $1.704 billion for the Northeast Corridor, $413 million for the Amtrak share of state-supported services, and $1.110 billion for long-distance service.

The remaining $1.63 billion would support Amtrak RRIF/debt payments, state and commuter partner payments that are payable to Amtrak under Sections 209 and 212, the costs of any congressional workforce or service directives, and added revenue risk beyond our current projection.

In an unrelated development, the Senate Commerce Committee delayed a hearing that it was scheduled to hold this week to examine Amtrak’s cuts in service frequencies for its long-distance trains.

The hearing has been sought by Senator Jon Tester of Montana to review planned service cuts of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder and other long-distance trains that are being implemented this month.

The Senate is in recess until Oct. 19 due to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Washington.

Amtrak Plans to Furlough Workers

September 2, 2020

Amtrak plans to furlough 1,950 unionized workers in federal fiscal year 2021, which begins on Oct. 1.

Trains magazine reported that the intercity passenger carrier also plans to end 100 management jobs.

Most of those being furloughed are on-board service employees who will no longer be needed after Amtrak reduces the frequency of most long-distance trains to tri-weekly in October.

Those 698 workers are represented by the Amtrak Service Workers Council.

Other planned furloughs include 509 employees represented by SMART-TD, 390 workers represented by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, 326 employees represented by the Transportation Communications Union, and 27 employees represented by the American Railway and Airway Supervisors Association.

Those employees are based in Los Angeles (236 workers), Chicago (171 workers) and Seattle (129) among other cities.

Amtrak said the furloughs could increase or decrease by as much as 2 percent once its operating plan is worked out.

The furloughed workers will continue to receive medical benefits paid by Amtrak until they are recalled or through Sept. 30, 2021, if they are not.

Managers who are being laid off are to be notified on Sept. 16.

Earlier this year Amtrak offered voluntary buyouts as part of an effort to reduce its workforce by 20 percent.

It warned at that time that involuntary furloughs would be imposed to make up the difference between the number of involuntary buyouts and the number of workers that the carrier wanted to reach.

Amtrak Eyeing Forced Furloughs

July 28, 2020

Amtrak is expected to furlough an unspecified number of employees after more than 500 workers agreed to accept a buyout offer.

Spokeswoman Christina Leeds told Trains magazine that the buyouts were “not enough to achieve the cost savings we are going to need in fiscal 2021.”

She said Amtrak management is evaluating which management positions it wants to eliminate and it is “very likely” that some union workers will be furloughed.

Amtrak said that 4,369 of its employees were eligible for a one-time payment if they agreed to leave the company.

The buyouts to 284 union workers and 227 managers will average about $33,000 apiece.

Leeds said that puts the total expenditure for buyouts at $16.83 million.

Trains said it obtained an internal company list that showed the breakdown by position of those taking buyouts.

It included 357 in the operations; 37 in administration; 22 in information technology; 17 in safety, health, and environmental; 15 in finance; 15 in human resources; seven in general counsel and corporate secretary; five in strategy and planning; and two in government affairs and corporate communications.

The degree of further furloughs could hinge on how much money Amtrak receives from Congress for fiscal year 2021, which begins Oct. 1.

The House of Representatives has approved a budget bill appropriating $10.05 billion for Amtrak with the proviso that no workers be laid off and that long distance trains now operating daily would continue to do so.

The Senate has yet to act on that bill and given how past appropriations have played out Congress may pass one or more continuing resolutions to keep the federal government operating in the next fiscal year until it reaches agreement on appropriations.

It is unclear what a continuing resolution, which typically funds government programs at the level approved in the past fiscal year, would mean for Amtrak’s workforce and the operation of long distance trains.

Amtrak has said it expects revenue in fiscal year 2021 to be 50 percent of what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

It cited that for planning to furlough 20 percent of its workforce and to reduce most long distance trains to tri-weekly operation.

Trains also reported that on July 14 Amtrak implemented a management restructuring whereby all operating, government affairs, and revenue-generating departments now report to CEO William Flynn through Stephen Gardner, executive vice president and chief operating and commercial officer.

Directly reporting to Flynn will be officers in charge of safety, finance, human resources, legal, and information.