Members of the United Transportation Union Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (UTU-SMART) employed by Keolis Rail Services ratified a new three-year agreement June 7 to continue service on the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) trains operating between Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Of the ballots returned, 78 percent were in favor of the new pact.
UTU-SMART represents conductors, assistant conductors and a new class of employees termed ACE, which is a designation applied to conductors or assistant conductors who volunteer to be trained and qualified as locomotive engineers.
The new agreement calls for annual pay increases of 2.5 percent, with the first wage increase to be applied July 1, 2013. It also pays per-trip compensation for required conductor certification. The payment will apply to all certified conductors working in either a conductor or assistant conductor position and the payment will double June 15, 2015.
In addition, employees covered under the agreement will receive a $1,000 signing bonus on or after June 15, 2013.
On the effective date, employees’ contributions to health care premiums will be $180 per month, with a cap of $198 per month over the life of the agreement.
Keolis Rail Services took over operation of VRE commuter trains from Amtrak July 12, 2010, after VRE signed a five-year, $85-million contract with the rail services manager in 2009.
At that time, according to news reports, all but one Amtrak employee working VRE trains chose to remain with Amtrak, forcing Keolis to hire and train new conductors, assistant conductors and engineers for the VRE operation.