Members of the American Train Dispatchers Association rejected by an 88-18 vote a tentative agreement with Amtrak, setting in motion a process that could lead to binding arbitration to settle their contract dispute.
Robert J. Irvin, president of the union, said he informed the railroad Wednesday morning the 134 eligible members employed by Amtrak had rejected the agreement in a mail ballot.The dispatchers were one of three unions that reached agreement with the passenger railroad just hours before the expiration of a federally mandated cooling off period June 24.
Wage, benefit and work rules negotiations have been under way since 1988 and the workers have had no wage increase for four years.
The ATDA-Amtrak dispute now falls under provisions of the law Congress passed last month to end a two-day strike and lockout involving the International Association of Machinists and the freight railroads.
Each side has until Monday to select a mediator to represent it. The two mediators will have until July 23 to name an arbitrator who will be available to consult with the parties while they negotiate for an additional two weeks.
Mr. Irvin said his union will select former Interstate Commerce Commission member Paul H. Lamboley, currently an attorney with the Washington law firm of Newman & Holtzinger, as its representative to choose the arbitrator.
An Amtrak spokeswoman said the company was aware of the dispatchers' vote and is in the process of selecting a mediator.
Mr. Irvin said his members took strong exception to work rule changes the union accepted in exchange for increased retroactive pay. "They didn't believe the retroactive payment was enough to justify the changes," he said.
The increased retroactive payment going back to July 1, 1991, amounted to about $1,600 per worker. The union had agreed to allow Amtrak to consolidate positions on shifts or days when there is a decreased work load.
Amtrak and other railroads had sought the work rules change throughout the four years of negotiations.
The union position was upheld by two Presidential Emergency Boards that studied the dispute between the union and the freight industry in 1990, and the Amtrak dispute this year.