The BMWED/SMART-Mechanical bargaining group met with the railroads for mediation on August 2 and 3 in Arlington, Virginia. On the first mediation day, the railroads (bargaining together as the National Carriers’ Conference Committee) presented their latest offer. It includes, amongst other backward, insolent proposals, no “retro pay,” a paltry increase of $10,162 per member over the course of the five-year contract, and health insurance plan design changes that would increase family deductibles to $1,400 and family out-of-pocket maximum payments to $600 in each calendar year, coupled with "indexing" that would automatically raise those amounts each year. The details of the railroad’s proposal can be found here.
BMWED/SMART-Mechanical made a counterproposal August 3. Our proposal includes retro pay, an average increase in pay of $30,703 per member over the course of the five-year contract, no increase in cost-sharing, and no changes to co-pays for medical services except a $25 increase in the emergency room co-pay. Nevertheless, we proposed over $140 million in annual savings to the National Health & Welfare Plan through our "357 Plan" (a name bestowed recently by the mediator), which attains savings to the plan without any cost-sharing changes or financial concessions to BMWED and SMART-Mechanical membership. Our latest proposal can be seen at this link.
The "357 Plan" -- so-named for the 357 standard metropolitan statistical areas identified by our experts' analysis -- re-draws a 20-year-old healthcare network map to most-efficiently apply the best network discounts currently offered. A lot has changed in 20-plus years since the map was drawn, and applying our plan modifications provides the railroads with greater financial savings than they received in the last round through PEB 243, while asking nothing more of the members in terms of monthly contributions, co-pays, or deductibles. We believe it is a good path forward and a strong starting point to reaching a voluntary deal.
Naturally, there are questions. In the video linked here, BMWED Director of Strategic Coordination and our lead negotiator at the table, Brother Don Griffin, answers many of the most commonly asked ones. Please take the time to watch. He dives into the numbers and the issues and we hope and think that he provides real-time, helpful information and lays out our strategy in a straightforward manner.
As always, thank you for your solidarity to our Brotherhood. Together, we truly are stronger. As President Simpson says in the video, we are optimistic that we've started down a path to a voluntary agreement, but time will tell. We will head back to mediation next month, and will report back with any and all developments.