Bush Urges Amtrak, Unions ‘To Work in Good Faith’

WASHINGTON — President Bush has received the report and recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board and is urging both Amtrak and several unions “to work in good faith to resolve their dispute, taking into account the Emergency Board’s recommendations.”

In November, Bush established a Presidential Emergency Board, hoping to keep the employees of nine Amtrak unions from striking. The unions represent more than 6,000 of Amtrak’s non-operating employees who have been working on contracts that expired in 1999.

“The President urges the parties to continue to work in good faith to resolve their dispute, taking into account the Emergency Board’s recommendations,” Bush said in a statement.

The Emergency Board conducted a three-day hearing in early December.

The Board recommended adoption by the parties of the wage and health care package agreed to in April 2007 by the organizations and the nation’s rail freight industry, W. Dan Pickett, President of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, and Joel M. Parker, spokesman for the Amtrak Shopcraft Coalition, said in a joint statement.

The board said that “the Freight Agreements have served over the years as the historical pattern referenced for establishment of wages, benefits and working conditions at Amtrak,” and criticized the carrier’s “proposed ‘cherry picking’ of the Freight package to take the parts that benefit it while rejecting the rest,” according to the joint statement.

For Amtrak, the recommended wage settlement amounted to increases of 35.2 percent over the period Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2009. The Board recommended that employees receive back pay, and the payments are likely to range from a low of $5,139 to a high of $34,433.

Also, the Board recommended against adoption of Amtrak’s proposed changes in work rules, the unions said.

If an agreement isn’t reached by 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 30, 2008, Amtrak workers can strike, the unions said. However, Congress can intervene and impose an agreement.

— Railfanning.org News Wire Services