The first stirrings of a possible new attempt to reach a compromise between rail labor and management over the industry's contentious outstanding issues are in the wind.
Sources report that while the drive is in its most preliminary stages, it is being fired by attempts by Interstate Commerce Commissioner Paul Lamboley to get both sides to agree to sit down and negotiate.First efforts are centering on a possible compromise solution to the issues resulting from the sales of branch lines by Class I railroads to small operators.
The pitched labor-management battles that erupted from the sales have worked their way all the way to the Supreme Court, and the drive to reach a compromise has been fueled by the desire of at least some of the parties to reach their own solution, before the court imposes one.
Mr. Lamboley is apparently trying to re-create the role he played during the summer as a bridge between labor and management after the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Co. went bankrupt, and the Delaware Otsego Corp. was awarded the right to provide directed service over its lines.
The Delaware Otsego Corp. wanted to reduce crew sizes to cut expenses, despite existing contracts. Just when a major confrontation between management and labor loomed, Mr. Lamboley hosted a day-long session in Washington, which led to a compromise agreement between the parties.
A spokesman for the Railway Labor Executives' Association Wednesday denied a characterization in The Journal of Commerce that Mr. Lamboley had been asked to present a union compromise to the Association of American Railroads covering the short-line situation.
Rather, he said, Commissioner Lamboley asked if he could act as a mediator . . . We welcome any assistance he can give us.
The spokesman added that, following a meeting of the RLEA directors in Washington on Tuesday, There may be some more attempts to reach a compromise. Officials of various unions are assessing their positions, searching for a model to present as a compromise.
Mr. Lamboley Wednesday said he believed there was now an opportunity to see if we can't get them together to attempt to reach a compromise.
He declined to provide any more details, other than to add that he has had discussions with labor, and would meet soon with the AAR.
In late November, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two appeals involving the sale of one small railroad, and held in abeyance two other short-line appeals.
Arguments in the cases will probably not be held until April.