Railroads Health Care Hikes
January/February 2005 IBEW Journal
five years of conflict, the hot issue of increases in health
insurance cost-sharing for 5,300 IBEW members employed
by the largest U.S. freight railroads was resolved in arbitration.
On October 26, the arbitrator gave the rail carriers the
green light to raise employee contributions.
The IBEW and the National
Carriers Conference Committee have been in negotiations
since 1999. Under the Railway Labor Act, the current contract
remains in effect until a new contract settlement is reached
or the parties exhaust all mediation and arbitration processes.
The arbitrators decision
means that the March 2004 tentative agreement becomes the
new contract, retroactive to 1999. IBEW members rejected
three prior tentative agreements because they contained
increases in health insurance cost sharing.
Retroactive wage increases
in the new contract will be reduced by the new health care
charges. The IBEW had proposed in negotiations to keep
worker health care contributions at the prior contracts
rate of $8.67 per month. In arbitration, the union proposed
as an alternative that members be exempt from increases
in the first year of the new agreement and sought an understanding
that no employees retroactive health care payments would
exceed their wage increases.
The arbitrator rejected
all union proposals. Rail workers will pay $33.39 per month
for the first year, $81.18 per month in the second year,
$91.38 in the third year, $100 per month in the fourth
year, and $100 plus an additional charge for the fifth
IBEW Railroad Department
Director Ray Cobb contends that the arbitrators decision
is "yet another indication of the crisis facing U.S.
workers and companies due to sky-rocketing prescription
drug and medical care costs." Cobb states, "We
must continue the fight for governmental action to address
"I am hopeful," Cobb
continues, "that rail unions will be united during
the next round of negotiations in January 2005 to win reasonable
wage increases and succeed in relieving the memberships
increased burden for health care."