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MASSACHUSETTS DELEGATION PRESSES RAILROAD COMPANIES TO BARGAIN IN GOOD FAITH WITH THEIR WORKERS

 MASSACHUSETTS DELEGATION PRESSES RAILROAD COMPANIES
 TO BARGAIN IN GOOD FAITH WITH THEIR WORKERS
 WASHINGTON, May 4 /PRNewswire/ -- The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes issued the following:
 Massachusetts lawmakers, in an effort to avert a looming strike at Amtrak and Conrail, are telling the two companies not to expect Congress to stop a shutdown. Instead, the lawmakers are directing the companies to settle their labor conflicts themselves.
 In a letter sent by the entire Massachusetts House delegation, the carriers are warned that Congress is in no mood to settle the disputes, especially after rail workers were mistreated in the wake of last year's nationwide rail strike.
 "We are deeply disappointed with the conditions imposed ... last year," the letter said. "We are simply unwilling to impose similar conditions again.
 "Congress should not be seen as a vehicle which management or labor can use to escape confronting these difficult issues," the letter, written to Conrail President James Hagen and Amtrak President W. Graham Claytor, said.
 The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE), which represents the men and women who build and maintain railroad tracks, bridges and buildings, has been in negotiations with Conrail and Amtrak since 1988. A strike could take place as early as June 24 on one or both railroads if no settlement is reached.
 On Amtrak, where wages are 12 percent lower than on other railroads, and where BMWE members average $21,000 a year, the top issue is wages. Amtrak also wants to cut "overall compensation" -- through wage and work rule changes -- by 30 percent. On Conrail, where BMWE members have suffered from massive job losses, the major issue is job security.
 On both railroads, the companies' demands would force employees to work hundreds of miles from home, often for weeks at a time. At the same time, Conrail wants to provide squalid living conditions, and Amtrak is offering a $29 per diem for meals, lodging and gas.
 BMWE members -- who have agreed to givebacks to save these two companies in the past -- say they cannot possibly accept these hardships when Conrail is enjoying profits and its stock price is skyrocketing, and while ridership is soaring and management wages are consistently increasing at Amtrak.
 "The concerns raised by Amtrak and Conrail employees are legitimate and serious," the letter says. "We believe negotiations between labor and management should intensify in the weeks ahead in an attempt to reach a satisfactory resolution.
 "We, in the Congress, have always strongly supported our nation's railroads. Implicit in that has been our support for the men and women who make the trains run."
 BMWE officials applauded the letter. "We have been trying to bargain in good faith for almost four years now," said BMWE President Mac A. Fleming. "The carriers have sat across the table stone faced, unwilling to move on the issues, because they think Congress will impose a favorable settlement.
 "This letter is telling the companies that they better start bargaining in good faith or a shutdown will be their own fault," Fleming said.
 In April 1991, when workers went on strike against the rest of the nation's railroads, Congress established a special board to consider and settle the dispute. That board, appointed by President Bush, imposed many of the provisions that Amtrak and Conrail workers are fighting today.
 There are 2,500 maintenance of way employees on Amtrak and 5,500 on Conrail.
 -0- 5/4/92
 /CONTACT: Al Comeaux for the BMWE, 202-289-0800/ CO: Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes; Amtrak; Conrail ST: Massachusetts IN: TRN SU:


MH-TW -- DC011 -- 5973 05/04/92 11:10 EDT
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Date:May 4, 1992
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