The Illinois Central Railroad has lost its bid to break the crew-consist agreement it has with the United Transportation Union before its scheduled expiration in 2020.
The move had been seen by the UTU as a precursor to a major industry effort to spark a new round of crew-size reductions now that a few railroads have gained more liberal agreements with the operating unions.The National Railroad Adjustment Board ruled earlier this month that the Illinois Central's attempt to break the agreement through the serving of a Section 6 notice under the Railway Labor Act was improper.
The railroad said it was free to cancel the agreement because on several occasions it had been amended by the UTU and the railroad, sources reported.
According to the finding published by the adjustment board, "The carrier contends that the issue in this case is whether the carrier must wait 40 years to serve a notice to change a labor agreement."
The crew-consist agreement that was signed between the parties in 1980 provides that the reductions in crews must occur through work-force attrition, and the company projects that it will thus be unable to seek further changes before 2020.
"If it will take 40 years for the attrition of all protected employees, . . . then the carrier must wait that long" before seeking changes, the board ruled. "The carrier accepted the benefits of this agreement and must live up to the clear obligations of this agreement."
The board found that the Illinois Central knew, or should have known, just how long the moratorium would last before it signed the agreement with the UTU; it added that the language covering the ban on changes was "absolutely clear and unambiguous."
Attempts to reach officials of the Illinois Central and the UTU Thursday were unsuccessful.
In the past 28 years, the UTU has signed crew-consist agreements with all of the remaining Class I railroads. When the talks began, the average train crew consisted of five workers, while today most crews are made up of an engineer and two trainmen.
A crew-consist agreement was forced on the UTU at the Chicago & North Western Transportation Co. in mid-1988 when Congress adopted the recommendations of a presidential emergency board that was appointed when a strike broke out.