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Railway emergency board.

The White House announced its intention to appoint an emergency board to hear a dispute between 12 railway unions, representing some 320,000 workers, and the Nation's railroads. A deadlock was reached because of the carriers' proposal that their employees share the cost of health care which, according to an industry representative, has been increasing 15-20 percent annually. The carriers also proposed that their workers pay a $ 1 00 deductible and absorb $2,000 catastrophic (out-of-pocket) costs.

Contract negotiations in the railroad industry are conducted under the Railway Labor Act which provides a step-by-step process, including mediation and voluntary (but binding) arbitration to resolve labor disputes. Almost 2 years ago, the parties exchanged bargaining proposals covering wages, working conditions, and health and welfare benefits. one year later, when no progress had been made in negotiations, the parties asked the National Mediation Board, the Federal agency that administers labor relations in the railroad industry, to mediate the dispute. Neither bargaining nor mediation under the auspices of the National Mediation Board resulted in a settlement.

The emergency board will hear the health care portion of the dispute and make recommendations within 120 days after its appointment to resolve these issues (instead of the usual 30 days stipulated under the Railway Labor Act). The parties do not have to accept the emergency board's recommendations as a basis to settle the dispute. If one or both parties reject the board's report, there is an automatic 30-day cooling-off period during which management can not lock out its workers or unilaterally change the terms and conditions of employment, nor can the unions engage in a job action. Although the unions have agreed to grant the board "any reasonable request for an extension of time," September 15 has tentatively been set as the date the board will release its report.

Immediately after the emergency board members make their recommendations on the health issues, they will mediate the wage and work rules part of this dispute. The carriers are asking for work-crew reductions, more flexibility in assigning work, and rights to subcontract out more work. The unions are seeking semiannual 5-percent wage increases, elimination of some subcontracting, and job protection in "short-line" sales.
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Title Annotation:Developments in Industrial Relations; to mediate railroad-union contract deadlock
Author:Cimini, Michael H.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Previous Article:Significant decisions in labor cases.
Next Article:Cotton garment settlement.

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