By Gretchen Wehmhoff
After six years without an updated contract, White Pass & Yukon Route (WPYR) and SMART-TD railway workers have a deal.
The parties gave one last push on July 21. The session, originally planned for a federal mediator to facilitate, included only WPYR and SMART-TD.
“We were so close that he was fine with having the parties meet without him. It took a bit of time to get together. But we were very close in the last round of meetings and continued to have some conversations and finally got together. And we were supportive of that. I believe the union was as well, just to get home to a deal,” WPYR Executive Director Tyler Rose said.
The results of the meetings came in the form of a tentative agreement (TA). By Wednesday morning, the TA was ratified by the 27 members of Local 1626.
The actual vote count is not public, but according to Local 1626 Chairperson Jason Guiler, it was overwhelmingly positive. Per union rules, the ratification was voted on by craft — brakemen, conductors and engineers.
“So 51% or higher per craft is considered a passing vote and each craft must pass. So all of the engineers vote separately from all of the conductors who then vote separately from all of the brakemen,” Guiler said.
Members had a 48-hour window to review the tentative agreement. Ballots were due Wednesday morning by 8 a.m. Guiler and the local secretary jeremy simmons (who does not capitalize his name) tabulated the votes after work on Wednesday.
“I’m very proud of this agreement … It’s been a lot of work. And I’m really proud to say that we were able to, you know, to keep things moving to a point that we were able to reach an agreement rather than continue in a direction that could have ended in a very different manner,” Guiler said.
The union expressed its appreciation that the three-person crew was maintained in the negotiations. One sticking point had been the potential accepted attrition of the brakeman position. Guiler was pleased.
“We were able to protect the jobs of the brakemen,” he said.
Neither WPYR or the union are publicly sharing the TA, percentage increase or wages in the deal.
Another issue the parties tackled was the concept of retroactive pay. Members will receive a bonus payment in lieu of past pay compensation. Members will also maintain their health benefits package, although there was some change in the member co-pay.
“So everything that was enacted in the contract will be from [Wednesday], as far as pay increases and everything else, I think it’s really positive,” Rose said.
The ratified TA is effective as of Wednesday morning and will continue until Dec. 31, 2027. According to the deal, the negotiated bonuses will be paid out Oct. 31.