Union Reps Sign Tentative Contract with Amtrak

Union representatives signed a tentative new contract today with Amtrak, which avoided the possibility of a Jan. 31 nationwide strike by agreeing to increase wages by an average of 35.2 percent (about $12,800 per worker) for the period from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2009. A presidential panel set up to prevent a walkout sided with the workers Dec. 30, saying Amtrak may have to pay $62 million in back wages and drop proposed work-rule changes. The contact agreement closely follows the board's recommendations.

Negotiations had gone on for eight years, until nine unions representing about half of Amtrak's 15,000 employees threatened the Jan. 31 strike. This could have affected the nation's freight network, the Teamsters warned last week.

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the agreement benefits all parties. "The settlement is a victory for the executives as well, who can now focus on maintaining Amtrak as the world-class passenger rail service the nation needs in the 21st century," Kennedy said in a news release posted on the committee's Web site. "The agreement gives the company the peace and stability it needs to build a stronger future and to attract the best workers in the nation. Finally, this settlement is also a victory for the Amtrak passengers, the commuters, and the public, who can be confident that Amtrak will be able to keep improving its service on trains that run on time. Such a victory could not have come at a more auspicious time. Last year, Amtrak had its highest ridership ever, with nearly 26 million passengers overall, including more than 2 million in Massachusetts. The American people have more confidence in Amtrak than ever before, and this contract will enable the company and its workers to build on that trust."

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