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2/28/2017



Rail News: Labor

ATU Local 689 threatens to reject overtime work at WMATA


Trains pass through the Farragut West Station on the Orange and Blue Lines.
Photo – WMATA/Larry Levine

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 has reportedly threatened to encourage workers to turn down overtime work following disputes over the agency's anti-fatigue policy, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld said in a letter to employees yesterday.

Wiedefeld wrote that he was "especially disturbed" to learn about the "potentially unlawful and disruptive action."

The union's threat is in response to WMATA's decision last week to pursue legal action in order to enforce an anti-fatigue safety policy that would prevent train and bus operators from working seven consecutive days.

The policy contradicts WMATA's current agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, union officials believe. Under the agreement, employees are paid time-and-a-half for the first day they work on a day off and double time for the second day off, which would mark the seventh consecutive day of work.

To honor the collective bargaining agreement, the agency pays certain employees not to work on their seventh day, but the union in 2016 filed a grievance and took the issue to arbitration. Arbitrators then decided that the collective bargaining agreement superseded the fatigue policy, which became unenforceable.

"Limiting hours of service for employees in safety-critical positions is a well-established transportation industry practice, and [WMATA] has been at the forefront of implementing similar standards within the transit industry," Wiedefeld said in the letter.

In response to the union's threat, Wiedefeld said he'll keep "every option on the table," including using outside contractors and pursuing additional legal action.

"It is my sincere hope that every employee will continue to accept work assignments as they normally do," he added.

ATU Local 689 maintains that WMATA officials are continuing to "put the fatigue policy to the side when it suits them," union leaders said in a statement yesterday.

Most recently, the agency violated the fatigue policy when it forced all employees to work on the Presidential Inauguration weekend regardless of whether they were on their seventh day of work, ATU Local 689 officials said.

"It is laughable and offensive that WMATA is tying the seven day work rule to a 'strong safety culture,' " said ATU Local 689 Financial Secretary-Treasurer Esker Bilger. "For years, [WMATA] has been called out by federal agencies for having no safety culture and has refused in this negotiation process to even meet with Local 689 to discuss how to improve safety on the system."

In addition, it's not illegal for Local 689 members to no longer sign up for voluntary overtime, according to the union.

"It is wrong for the general manager to imply otherwise," Local 689 officials added. "Our members make the sacrifices of working seven days because they understand how essential reliable transit is to our riders, but they will not be disrespected while volunteering to make up for [WMATA's] lack of real leadership."



Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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