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Caltrain settles Amtrak employee back wages claim for $500k

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  • 11/30 SMCo. Times
    Published Monday, November 30, 2009, by the San Mateo County Times Caltrain settles Amtrak employee wage claim for $500,000 By Mike Rosenberg San Mateo County
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2009
      Published Monday, November 30, 2009, by the San Mateo County Times

      Caltrain settles Amtrak employee wage claim for $500,000

      By Mike Rosenberg
      San Mateo County Times

      Caltrain will pay Amtrak $500,000 for back wages owed to conductors, engineers and other employees, but the transit operator avoided a much larger bill, Caltrain officials said Monday.

      The two railroad operators reached the settlement out of court earlier this month after Amtrak sent Caltrain a $5.7 million invoice this summer for unpaid wages from the past half decade, said Joan Cassman, legal counsel for Caltrain.

      Amtrak supplies the employees responsible for operating the Caltrain system.

      The complaint arose after Amtrak spent several years without settling collective bargaining agreements with its union groups. An arbitrator eventually ruled in favor of the unions and ordered Amtrak to give its employees around the country retroactive pay hikes.

      Until recently, the issue had mostly disappeared for Caltrain. The agency hadn't heard from Amtrak about the topic since January 2008, at which time Amtrak officials told Caltrain they likely would be able to secure funding for the retroactive wage hikes through the U.S. government, Cassman said.

      But that plan fell through, and Cassman said Caltrain received a letter over the summer that outlined what the agency owed Amtrak for its employees' retroactive pay raises.

      Caltrain responded with a letter of its own, and the case was settled without any documents being filed in court.

      Cassman said that, although the employees in question were working for Caltrain, it was ultimately Amtrak's responsibility to settle disputes with its employees and pay the majority of the back wages.

      She called the settlement figure "terrific."

      "We're thrilled," she said. "We're delighted to have this behind us."

      Amtrak officials said Monday they do not discuss their contractual agreements and could not comment.

      Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said the agency had factored an expected settlement into the budget adopted by its board of directors in July and officials do not expect the payment to impact operations.

      Sine January, the transit operator has increased fares and parking fees, cut eight of its 98 weekday trains and declared a fiscal emergency.

      Mike Rosenberg covers San Mateo, Burlingame, Belmont and transportation. Reach him at 650-348-4324.
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