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NEW YORK LAWMAKERS SAY THEY WILL 'ACTIVELY OPPOSE' CONGRESSIONAL INTERVENTION IN STRIKES AT CONRAIL, AMTRAK

 NEW YORK LAWMAKERS SAY THEY WILL 'ACTIVELY OPPOSE'
 CONGRESSIONAL INTERVENTION IN STRIKES AT CONRAIL, AMTRAK
 WASHINGTON, May 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes issued the following:
 Conrail, Amtrak and their workers should not expect Congress to intervene in looming strikes at the two railroads, 20 House members from New York say.
 The 20 Representatives, in letters to Conrail, Amtrak and labor officials, warned the parties that Congress is in no mood to settle the disputes and that labor and management should settle their disputes themselves.
 Meanwhile, labor and management awaited the recommendations of a Presidential Emergency Board that is considering various aspects of the disputes. The PEB report was due today. A strike could take place as early as June 24 on one or both railroads if no settlement is reached.
 "We would actively oppose any effort to impose Congressional intervention to resolve the impasse on a contract settlement" at Conrail and Amtrak, the letter said.
 "While we believe that it is appropriate for Congress to intervene in disputes that pose a grave economic dislocation to our economy, the Amtrak and Conrail disputes do not warrant such action," the letter said. "In these cases, the implications of a protracted dispute are clearly regional, and substitute modes of transportation are available."
 "We do not want Congress to be used as a tool by management or labor to avoid confronting difficult collective bargaining issues," the letter said. "The collective bargaining process depends upon the ability of both labor and management to negotiate in good faith. Obviously, there is substantially less impetus to negotiate when the expectation is that Congress will impose a settlement."
 "As the strike deadline approaches ... we are concerned that Congress will once again be put in the position of forcing a settlement in a rail-labor dispute."
 Union officials, who have been in negotiations for almost four years, praised the letter. "Congress is pressuring the railroad companies to bargain with us in good faith," said Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes President Mac A. Fleming. "Since 1988, 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 meant to get them to negotiate."
 BMWE members at Conrail and Amtrak, who build and maintain railroad tracks, bridges and buildings, have been working without a new contract since 1988.
 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' want 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 $29 per day 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. In fact, while maintenance of way wages have been frozen since 1988, Amtrak management has enjoyed increases totalling 18.5 percent.
 "This letter is telling the companies that they better start bargaining in good faith or a shutdown will be their own fault," Fleming said. "Congress realizes that the carriers will take full advantage of the waiting game if there is no threat that a strike will be protracted."
 The letter was signed by Reps. Gary Ackerman, Charles Schumer, Ted Weiss, Charles Rangel, James Scheuer, Edolphus Towns, Stephen Solarz, Floyd Flake, Michael McNulty, George Hochbrueckner, Ray McGrath, John LaFalce, Henry Nowak, Thomas Downey, Eliot Engel, Jose Serrano, Frank Horton, Bob Mrazek, Major Owens and Louise Slaughter.
 Last April, when workers went on strike against the rest of the nation's railroads, Congress halted the strike and 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.
 -0- 5/28/92
 /CONTACT: Al Comeaux for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, 202-289-0800/ CO: Conrail; Amtrak; Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes ST: New York IN: TRN SU:


IH -- DC007 -- 4682 05/28/92 11:09 EDT
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Date:May 28, 1992
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