Legislation imposing a settlement in the bitter dispute between rail labor and the Maine Central and Portland Terminal units of Guilford Transportation Industries should clear Congress early next week.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday reported out legislation dictating a solution to the labor dispute that, for a short time last summer, precipitated an industrywide walkout.Identical legislation cleared the Senate Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, Guilford, headquartered in Billerca, Mass., said it would challenge the legislation in court.
Colin Pease, Guilford vice president, said the challenge would be made on constitutional grounds. He said the company will allege that congressional passage of the law discriminates against Guilford.
The bill repudiates the concept of the Railway Labor Act" by imposing a settlement, he said.
At issue is a wage and work rule dispute between Guilford's Maine Central and Portland Terminal rail units and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes.
Provisions of the resolution require that most of the recommendations made by a presidential emergency board last summer be used as the basis for settling the dispute.
The board recommended $26,000 in severance pay for released employees, a comprehensive agreement for system maintenance crews on the carriers and adoption of the wage, health and welfare benefits negotiated with the rest of the industry.
Provisions not agreed to would go to binding arbitration.
The settlement is similar to an offer Guilford's management put on the table earlier this year but which it has since withdrawn on cost grounds.
Guilford has lost about $11 million during the first seven months of this year and the settlement would cost it about $1.5 million.
Identical legislation cleared the Senate Wednesday night and final House action is expected early next week at the latest.
Theoretically, the BMWE could walk out Friday morning but officials say it is unlikely since legislation imposing a settlement apparently will clear Congress shortly.
The administration has taken no position on the legislation although private indications are that President Reagan will sign the bill.
On the issue of Guilford's threat to file suit about the legislation, the government has ample precedent for dictating settlements of labor disputes affecting the industry.
The most recent direct intervention came in 1982 when Congress imposed a settlement in a dispute between the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the nation's railroads.
But direct government intervention in rail disputes goes back at least to the early 1970s when Congress imposed a settlement in a dispute between the Sheet Metal Workers and the rest of the industry.
The degree of intervention over the years has varied in intensity, industry officials said, citing as an example a 1971 congressional law
directing rail management and the Signalmen's Union back to the bargaining table as a less extreme form of intervention.
But even in that instance Congress directed the carriers to give a wage increase to the Signalmen, which definitely had an impact on the negotiating process.