Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak workers’

Amtrak Begins Recalling Furloughed Workers

March 16, 2021

Amtrak was to begin the process of recalling furlough employees on this week.

An internal memo said 1,250 furloughed workers would be recalled between March 16 and 29 while noting that it would take 90 days to get all of them back to work.

During that 90-day period the furloughed workers will be tested and requalified as needed in their respective positions.

The recalls were mandated in the recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that was approved by Congress and signed by President Joseph Biden.

The legislation appropriated $1.7 billion in supplemental funding for Amtrak to, among other things, restore daily service to 16 long distance trains that operated daily until last year.

The restoration of daily service is to take place on a rolling schedule on May 24, May 31 and June 7.

The Amtrak memo indicated that the first employees to be recalled would be those in train and engine service followed by onboard service personnel.

The affected workers will be contacted by a phone call that will be followed up with a certified letter.

In the memo Amtrak indicated that although workers are expected to respond to the recalls within the time frame outlined in their craft’s collective bargaining agreement, the carrier is seeking to provide some flexibility so workers can take care of personal matters before reporting back to work at Amtrak.

Bill Would Mandate Daily Service for Amtrak Long-Distance Trains

February 26, 2021

A Montana senator has introduced legislation to require Amtrak to reinstate daily service to most of its 15-long distance routes.

The bill sponsored by Jon Tester (D-Montana) also would require the passenger carrier to reinstate furloughed workers.

Last October, Amtrak reduced the frequency of most long-distance trains from daily to tri-weekly.

Less than daily operations of two New York-Miami routes began last July while two other routes, the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) and Cardinal (Chicago-New York) have operated tri-weekly for several years.

Only the Auto Train between Lorton, Virginia, and Florida has continued to run daily.

Amtrak cited steep ridership and revenue declines triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic for reducing the frequency of its long-distance trains.

In introducing his bill, Tester said in a statement that Amtrak’s service reductions “were an unacceptable attack on rural America.”

Tester’s bill would authorize and appropriate federal grants to Amtrak to pay for reviving daily service and recalling furloughed workers.

In a statement, Amtrak said it wants to resume daily service on route that had it before the pandemic and to recall furloughed workers.

The statement noted that a pandemic relief bill approved by a congressional committee contains funding to do that.

That bill is pending before the full House of Representatives.

Tester said he hopes that daily service on Amtrak long-distance routes can be achieved before the start of the summer travel season.

Amtrak Gives Workers Incentives to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

February 3, 2021

Amtrak is offering financial incentives to its workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine injection in an effort to get its workforce immunized.

The incentives include pay, benefit extensions and excused absences.

The pay benefit is an allowance equal to two hours of straight-time wages for those who receive the vaccine shot during scheduled work hours.

Protected pay will be offered to those who miss work because of vaccination side effects.

If those side effects last more than 48 hours, Amtrak will continue to protect pay as long as medical documentation is provided.

Amtrak Workers Rally for More Federal Aid

October 1, 2020

Amtrak workers represented by three labor unions held rallies on Wednesday in an effort to drum up support for additional emergency COVID-19 aid for the intercity rail passenger carrier.

Rallies were held in Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles seeking the aid in order to stave off furloughs and reductions in operations of long-distance trains.

Amtrak is planning to layoff nearly 2,000 employees and operate most long-distance trains three days a week rather than daily.

News reports indicate that members of Congress are discussing additional pandemic aid, but it’s uncertain if additional funding for Amtrak will be part of any package that can win approval of both chambers.

The Senate has balked at a House package approved in May and is seen as unlikely to adopt all of the provisions of another package the House expects to vote on this week.

That latter bill would include emergency funding for Amtrak, public transit and the airline industry.

Some rallies were held at primary Amtrak stations although one was held at the station in Dearborn, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, while another was held at the Capitol in Washington.

The unions involved included the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation; Transportation Communication Union ; and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana), has proposed an amendment to a Senate pandemic aid bill that would prohibit Amtrak from implementing “service cuts or furlough or terminate the employment of any employee during the period beginning on Oct. 1, 2020.”

Trains magazine reported that the House bill pandemic relief bill under consideration proposes $2.5 billion for Amtrak.

That funding would be divided into $1 billion to maintain long-distance daily frequencies, $1.4 billion for the Northeast Corridor, and the rest to bolster state payments for corridor service.

The magazine said Amtrak has in the meantime begun moving some equipment to storage locations, which could be a sign that management lacks confidence that additional aid for Amtrak from Congress is likely to be approved.

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.

Flynn Says Little New in WaPo Interview

July 18, 2020

Amtrak President William Flynn agreed to an interview with The Washington Post this past week but the passenger carrier CEO said little that differs from public statements and letters he has written to Congress.

William Flynn

Flynn reiterated earlier comments that Amtrak’s ridership is rising but is not expected to recover this year to pre-pandemic levels.

He also declined to be more specific about what criteria Amtrak would use to determine when to resume operating long distance trains on a daily basis rather than the tri-weekly basis that Amtrak is planning starting Oct. 1.

The interview appeared to have been done before a House Appropriations Committee voted to give Amtrak additional funding for federal fiscal year 2021 with the mandate that those trains continue to operate daily.

As he has in letters to Congress, Flynn said that ridership on the long distance trains declines dramatically during the winter.

“It makes sense to us to reduce a number of the trains to three times a week, evaluate those in the winter, plan for restoration in the late spring or early summer when the ridership typically returns,” Flynn said.

He added that Amtrak is “ . . . absolutely committed to operating the long-distance network. That’s a very clear commitment on the part of the company.”

The Amtrak CEO said the carrier is currently seeking to appeal to potential new riders because it understands “that that companies and customers are going to change their travel patterns. They may travel less or differently.”

He said during a recent trip from Washington to New York the Amtrak personnel he spoke with said they are seeing many new riders, particularly young passengers who were riding a train for the first time.

“That’s exciting because an important part of our work going forward is to create new customers and not only have them be a one-time rider, but become a lifelong customer of Amtrak,” Flynn said.

Flynn justified an announced 20 percent staff reduction – which would be 3,700 of the carrier’s  18,000 workers. – as a necessary change to match the level of customer demand Amtrak expects to see in the near and immediate term.

He reiterated that Amtrak expects ridership to be half of what it was in 2019.

Flynn said Amtrak has told Congress it will be reducing costs and that includes reducing its workforce.

“That’s very painful. It’s nothing we ever want to do, but believe we need to,” he said.

Flynn declined to predict when Amtrak would return to its pre-pandemic levels of service.

He said that will hinge on “the state of the country and the state of this pandemic. Has it subsided dramatically? Has demand [for travel] begun to improve?”

The demand for travel by train and in general is something Flynn said Amtrak managers will be watching closely.

Flynn said Amtrak continues to invest for the long term, but most of the examples that he cited involve service improvements in the Northeast Corridor.

That includes the new Acela train sets, the opening of Moynihan Train Hall in New York, and a renovation of 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.

He did mention taking delivery of new locomotives used in the national network and working toward ordering new equipment to replace rolling stock other than that used by the Acela service.

Without giving any examples, Flynn said Amtrak is “very much committed to the expansion of intercity travel. We think it’s a key component of our country’s longer-term mobility strategy.”

Amtrak Planning to Cut Size of its Police Force

May 8, 2019

The labor union representing Amtrak police officers is warning that the passenger carrier intends to cut the force by 20 percent over the next three years.

The union said Amtrak Police Chief Neil Trugman told it that the force would be reduced from 452 to 369 by 2022.

The reduction will apparently be achieved through attrition and no layoffs are being planned.

However, William Gonzalez, president of Amtrak’s Fraternal Order of Police, said that retirements alone will not enable the carrier to reach its stated goal.

He also said the staff cuts “will jeopardize the safety and security for the passengers and employees.”

An Amtrak spokesman said the company is “currently evaluating the deployment of our Amtrak Police Department staff to ensure we have appropriate staffing levels for the safety and security of our customers as employees.”

The spokesman said Amtrak expects, though to increase the presence of officers on board trains.

Beech Grove Job Cuts May be Coming

April 26, 2019

In the wake of the Indiana legislature’s decision to cease funding the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State, Amtrak is hinting that it may lay off workers at its Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said 500 jobs at Beech Grove could be a risk if Amtrak is only able to shuttle equipment to and from the shops on the three days a week that the Cardinal operates through Indianapolis.

The Indiana General Assembly on the recommendation of Gov. Eric Holcomb declined to renew the $3 million annual funding the state has been providing to Amtrak to operate the Hoosier State four days a week.

The legislature finalized the budget for the next two years earlier this week.

The Cardinal operates three days a week between Chicago and New York and serves all stations at which the Hoosier State stops.

However, an Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman defended ending Hoosier State funding.

“The Hoosier State has the lowest ridership and highest taxpayer subsidy per ticket sold of all Amtrak state sponsored routes,” said Scott Manning. “Today, ridership is stagnant. As a result of the low number of users, INDOT and local governments subsidize about 75 percent of the cost of each ticket sold on the Hoosier State. This does not represent a good value to Hoosier taxpayers.”

State funding of the Hoosier State will end on June 30. The train also receives $500,000 annually contributed by communities that it serves.

Amtrak earlier announced the Hoosier State will be suspended on July 1.

WISH-TV in Indianapolis quoted Beech Grove employee Danny Groves as saying that once the Hoosier State ends much of the shop’s work load will go away.

“Beech Grove was built around this [rail] yard. We know each other’s wives. We know each other’s families,” Groves said. “If this happens we’ll only be able to get equipment in three days a week.”

More than 400 people signed a petition asking the legislature to reconsider its decision to end funding of the Hoosier State.

Amtrak has faced before the situation that it is poised to have if the Hoosier State is discontinued.

In September 1995, the Hoosier State was eliminated in a route restructuring, leaving the tri-weekly Cardinal as Amtrak’s only service to Indianapolis.

It ferried equipment to and from Beech Grove via the Cardinal, which has operated as a tri-weekly train since January 1982.

Amtrak has also used a weekly “hospital” trains to move equipment between Chicago and Beech Grove.

But that train was subject to delay on host railroad CSX and crews sometimes had to halt due to having reached their limits under the federal hours of service law.

Amtrak cited delays to the Cardinal from switching equipment in and out in Indianapolis for resurrecting the Hoosier State in July 1998.

One difference between then and now is that a federal law adopted since then now makes state and local governments responsible for paying most of the costs of trains operating less than 750 miles.

That law precludes Amtrak assuming full funding of the Hoosier State.

But Beech Grove’s future at Amtrak was already tenuous before the Indiana legislature declined to continue funding it.

During a Congressional hearing in February Amtrak President Richard Anderson said that although Amtrak had no plans to close Beech Grove or reduce its workforce, its role at Amtrak was subject to change.

“Over time, we have to re-fleet the Amtrak rolling stock,” Anderson said, “. . . and over the longer term we have to figure out where we are going to do our maintenance work. I think the footprint is going to change over time because we’re moving to more modern equipment.”

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.

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.