March 4,2002
File: Proposed Agreement
Safety Involvement
Alternative Handling Discipline

Dear Sirs and Brothers:

Enclosed for review and determination is a proposal, establishing a system agreement between the Carrier and this General Committee of Adjustment to govern involvement in BNSF safety programs as well as an alternative method of handling for discipline cases. As background, this agreement is the product of several months of meetings with the Carrier resultant from requests by the International Presidents of BLE and UTU that the Carrier meet with the Organizations to establish meaningful safety initiatives. The parties worked for several months attempting to come to consensus on issues that we could jointly address and this agreement is the first product to come from this process. We are currently continuing to meet in this forum and are attempting to address fatigue and attendance related issues in agreement form as well. There are two components of the proposed agreement and this is to provide a brief overview of both.

Part 1 of the Agreement addresses a method for alternative handling of discipline cases. This part of the agreement does not make alternative handling mandatory on the employee, but as qualified in the agreement, does make access to this handling mandatory on the Carrier. As most of you know, the successes of the existing STAY program depended largely on the willingness of Local Carrier Officers to utilize the process. The process in the proposed agreement no longer depends on local willingness, and, instead, makes access to alternative handling, as defined in the agreement, a contractual right of the employee. If the agreement is ratified and implemented by this General Committee of Adjustment, access to this alternative handling will be available to alt employees working under the jurisdiction of this General Committee of Adjustment. Employees working in other crafts or under the jurisdiction of other BLE General Committees of Adjustment will be governed by the decision made by the involved GCofA as to whether or not the agreement is implemented.

Part 2 of the proposed Agreement deals with involvement of our membership in BNSF safety programs. This involvement is divided into two parts, one to be placed under the jurisdiction of the involved GCofA, and the other placed under the jurisdiction of each involved BLE Division. If the agreement is ratified and implemented, it will be up to the participating GCofA’s to provide full time BLE Safety Coordinators for each of the respective BNSF Divisions, a possible total of 13. These Coordinators will be selected and/or replaced by the GCofA, but in any event, will be provided regardless of the decision on additional participation made by BLE Divisions. The remainder of the participation falls to the jurisdiction of the BLE Division. If the BLE Division agrees, Safety Committees may be established with the involved BLE Divisions retaining the right to select and/or replace all participants on the local level. The agreement further contemplates that if the BLE Division agrees, safety observers will be used as part of the “Risk Identification Process”. Although these two Sections of the proposed agreement are part of the overall attempt to change the safety process, neither of them are mandatory, but will be left entirely to the discretion of each BLE Division. However, the full time Safety Coordinator and access to the Alternative Handling options are mandatory and will be put into place if the agreement is accepted.

In closing, the proposed agreement would be the first of its kind on our property in that it establishes by contractual agreement how participants in the Safety Process will be selected as well as how they will be compensated and thus makes this service covered under our Collective Bargaining Agreement. The proposed agreement goes even further in making access to alternative handling for discipline cases a contractual right, with no obligation unless the involved employee so desires. It should also be noted that the Carrier agreed to accept the terms of the proposed agreement for a minimum of 2 years, while the Organization can opt out of the agreement at the end of 1 year if our concerns are not being addressed.

Therefore, in accordance with Section 43(b) — STANDING RULES OF THE CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS of the INTERNATIONAL DIVISION, it is requested that the enclosed be discussed and acted on at the next regular (or special) meeting of your Division. Please indicate on the enclosed ballot if you are “FOR” or “AGAINST” the proposal. If you have any questions concerning the proposed agreement, please contact the Office. Return of your ballot as soon as possible would be appreciated, but it must be returned to this Office on or before April 12, 2002.

cc: J.H. Nelson, Sec./Treasurer



April 19,2002
File: Proposed Agreement
Safety Involvement/Alternative Handling Discipline

Dear Sirs and Brothers:

This is to advise that the proposed Agreement concerning Safety Involvement and Alternative Handling for Discipline has been approved by this General Committee of Adjustment. Pursuant to Article 7, Section N of the Committee Bylaws, I have enclosed a tally sheet depicting the results of each Division’s vote. The Agreement was ratified by the Committee, 30 votes for, 2 votes against and 10 abstentions. Enclosed you will also find a fully executed copy of the Agreement as well as a side letter clarifying the application of the make whole language for part time safety involvement found in the Agreement.

As part of the implementation process the participating General Committees must select full time Safety Coordinators, pursuant to Part II, Section I of the Agreement. As this Committee has sole jurisdiction on the Northwest, Montana, Twin Cities and Nebraska Divisions, we will be selecting the Coordinators. On the Northern California, Powder River, Kansas and Chicago Divisions we share jurisdiction with the other BLE General Committees. The four BLE General Committees have discussed various methods to assign these Coordinators and have agreed to the following. On those BNSF Divisions where there is joint jurisdiction between the General Committees, we will be selecting the Coordinators on an equity based method with the General Committee holding the preponderance of BLE Divisions on any given BNSF Division initially selecting. All BLE Divisions having members working on any of the various BNSF Divisions were included respectively in determining each Committee’s equity. The parties have also agreed that the General Committees having a smaller percentage of Divisions would be allowed to exercise their equity on a back to back basis combining their equity for each year of the two year pilot period. This methodology is contingent on all four Committees ratifying the Agreement.

In order to make the above described selections, we are soliciting each of our involved Local Chairmen and asking that you provide the name of a candidate for the full time Safety Coordinator position for your BNSF Division. If your Division has employees working on more than one BNSF Division, please provide the name of a candidate for each. We will make the initial selection on the Northwest, Montana, Twin Cities, Nebraska, Powder River and Chicago Divisions and need to make the appointments as soon as possible. We are meeting with the Carrier this week to discuss the duties and responsibilities of the Safety Coordinator and we will be providing more information via email following those meetings. When you have selected your Division’s candidate for the position, please provide the name, address and phone number of the candidate along with a brief bio describing the reasons that you feel make the involved member suitable for the position. As we would like to have the appointments made by May 1, 2002, please provide the information by fax or email at your soonest convenience. We will be contacting those selected by the Local Chairman and discussing the positions prior to making our determination.

In closing, please recognize that the intent of the new agreement was to change the way that BNSF’s employees, both management and scheduled, view the safety process. It will take a concerted efforts by all to see that the agreement truly benefits all involved as it is natural in this industry for all employees to resist change such as this. Those that are selected as Coordinators must be willing to put aside any territorial bias tat they may have and work to resolve the concerns of all engineers on the various BNSF Divisions. We know that many of you have expressed concern in that regard. but you may rest assured that in the event that those selected show any signs of favoritism, they will be replaced. At the same time, local Carrier Officers must be willing to address the concerns brought to them by the Coordinators and develop meaningful solutions. In the event that does not happen we need to be advised and the matter will be addressed with the Carrier here. Please contact the Office if you have any questions, and, I remain,

cc: J.H. Nelson, Sec./Treasurer








This Agreement is presented in two parts. Part I introduces an alternative approach to discipline that stresses training and counseling instead of punitive discipline. Part II introduces a new safety culture that focuses on the active participation of employees, managers and the union leadership as we partner to create a safer workplace through recognition that we must all focus as a team on safety.

Part I - Alternative Handling 

I. Definition of Alternative Handling

Alternative handling is a non-punitive response to rule violations that includes training and other non-disciplinary measures. An alternative handling event will be recorded on the employee’s operational testing record rather than the employee’s personal record. It will not be considered discipline and may only be used to determine eligibility for future alternative handling in the event of a subsequent violation and to document non-punitive counseling given to the employee. Where possible, notices of investigation will contain alternative handling options.

II. Scope

Except as modified in this Agreement, existing schedule agreements remain in effect. Nothing in this Agreement infringes on the right of an employee to formal investigation under the existing collective bargaining agreement. However, once the employee agrees to alternative handling, he/she waives all rights to formal investigation and appeal and agrees to abide by the terms specified by this Agreement, except as contained in Part I, Section VII of this Agreement.

III. Applicability

Alternative handling, if requested, will be made available for all types of rule violations formerly subject to company discipline except for the following:

A. late reporting of a personal injury

B. non-compliance with the company drug and alcohol policy

C. gross negligence as defined in Federal Regulations as a willful violation

D. rule violation resulting in very serious personal injury to anyone (life threatening or career ending) or major property damage ($250,000 or greater)

F. violation of personal conduct rule such as dishonesty, felony conviction, physical altercation

F. serious EEO violation

G. job abandonment as specified in applicable agreements.

Rule violations to which alternative handling is applicable are referred to as “covered” rule violations.

IV. Eligibility

Each employee subject to this Agreement is eligible for alternative handling provided he/she accepts responsibility for the violation and does not exceed the time period limitations described in Part I, Section VI (B) of this Agreement.

V. Exceptions

Exceptions to Part I, Sections III & IV may be granted as part of the dispute resolution process outlined in Part II, Section VII of this Agreement. If an exception is not granted, the employee retains full contractual rights established under the applicable schedule agreement, consistent with Part I, Section VII of this Agreement.

VI. Process

When the company is in possession of information that causes it to believe that an employee has violated a rule, the employee will be so notified and may request alternative handling. If the employee is eligible and the rule violation is covered, training and corrective action will be based on the “class” of the offense and the employee’s work history.

A. Classes of Covered Offenses Subject to Alternative Handling

(i) Class I offenses — rule violations that subject the company or individual to FRA fines, result in an accident or injury, or result in decertification, violations of all rules designed to protect people and equipment (other than PPE)

(ii) Class II offenses — operations testing failures involving rules designed to prevent Class I violations including test failures that result in decertification

(iii) Class III offenses — violations of all other rules not included in Classes I & II

B. Employee Eligibility for Alternative Handling

Calculations for eligibility will consider only those events that have occurred after the signing of this Agreement. Rule violations that occur prior to the signing of this  Agreement wild not be used to determine eligibility for alternative handling.

(i) Class I offenses An employee is ineligible for alternative handling if he/she has: (1) more than three prior alternative handling events for Class I violations, (2) thee violations of any kind in the previous 12 months, (3) a Class I violation n the previous 12 months, or (4) a violation of the same Class I offense in the previous 24 months.

(ii) Class II offenses — An employee is ineligible for alternative handling if he/she has had: (1) three alternative handling events for Class II offenses, (2) one Class I or two Class II violations in the previous 12 months, or (3) a violation of the same rule in the previous 12 months,

(iii) Class III offenses — An employee is ineligible for alternative handling if he/she has more than 3 events of any kind in the previous 12 months.

C. Alternative Handling

Alternative handling of operating and safety rule violations shall be accomplished through a written plan of employee education. Each written plan will be developed based on the following general guidelines:

(i) The plan will be tailored to the employee’s work environment and the specific nature of offense, and the entire alternative handling plan will, in general, be less than ten days.

(ii) An employee participating in alternative handling will be compensated at the prescribed rate for the entire term of the plan. If alternative handling is used for a 49 CFR Part 240 event, the revocation period will be reduced to the shortest revocation period within the company’s discretion.

(iii) Educational and training materials, classroom training, on-board training, simulators and net sims, rules awareness training, examinations without recorded scoring (except where required by existing rule, e.g., six month absence), safety awareness meetings, independent study, computer aided learning and contractor provided training are examples of acceptable alternative handling plan elements. Alternative handling plans are to be challenging and genuine.

(iv) Alternate handling may be accomplished at distant locations at BNSF’s expense provided this training does not place an undue hardship on the employee.

(v) The labor representative, or his/her designee, will participate in the creation of the alternative handling plans and may participate in the actual administration of the alternative handling plan without compensation from the company.

(vi) An employee shall not have the same alternative handling plan as administered for a previous offense within a 12 month period.

(vii) Each alternative handling plan will be consistent with established guidelines and designed specifically to address the offense that gave rise to alternative handling.

(viii) An alternative handling plan must be in place and started not later than 30 days from the offense unless agreement is reached between local management and the labor representative for cases involving unavoidable delay such as medical treatment or other circumstances whether related to the offense or otherwise.

VII. Time Limits

The time limits listed in the applicable schedule agreement apply with the following exceptions: In any case where an employee requests alternative handling, the time limit will stop upon receipt of the request by a company officer. If, as a result of action taken by the company, the employee is denied his/her request for alternative handling, the employee shall be given notice of the decision, which shall start the remaining time limit running to completion. The notice of denial by the company must be received by the employee not later than ten days from submission of request for alternative handling. It by action or inaction of the employee, the alternative handling plan is stopped, aborted or otherwise not completed by the employee, the time limits for investigation and all subsequent time limits for appeal will start anew in their entirety at the date the company issues notice of failure to meet the requirements of the alternative handling plan. This notice of failure to meet the requirements of the alternative handling plan must be received not later than ten days from the scheduled completion date of the alternate handling plan for that employee.

VIII. Compensation

The employee will be compensated during any training or other corrective action stemming from alternative handling. An employee who participates in alternative handling that lasts four hours or less, will be compensated at a minimum of one half of a basic day at the straight time rate of the last service performed. Alternative handling that lasts more than four hours, will be paid at a minimum of a basic day at the straight time rate of the last service performed. When an employee is required to miss time from his/her assignment, he/she will be compensated for actual lost earnings. Employees withheld from service pending formal investigation under the terms of existing labor agreements will be compensated for all time withheld from service if admitted into the alternative handling process, except that no compensation shall be paid for time withheld as required by 49 CFR Part 240, except for alternative handling training as provided for in this Agreement. Extra board employee’s guarantee will be offset by compensation under this Section; however, participation in an alternative handling plan will not count as a layoff for purposes of determining guarantee.

Part II - Safety Participation

The rail transportation workplace is a complex environment involving employees who are mostly self-supervised. In light of the complexity of this environment and our desire to create a safer workplace, we have agreed that our safety culture must be focused on safe production. One of the hallmarks of our safety culture should be active participation by our employees, our managers, and the union leadership. Through this Agreement and our commitment to partnership in promoting safety, our mutual objective is to identify and eliminate risks (physical plant risks, behavioral risks, and attitudinal risks) and create a safer workplace through a process of continuous improvement. To that end, we agree to the following:

I. Safety Coordinators Positions(s)

On each operating division where the BLE is a party to this Agreement, that division will have at least one full-time safety coordinator. Additional full-time or part-time safety coordinators may be added at the discretion of management. The appropriate BLE General Committee(s) shall select and/or replace the Safety Coordinator(s).

II. Duties and Responsibilities of a Safety Coordinator

A. The safety coordinator will work with employees, union leaders and the designated company officer(s) (currently the general manager and the manager safety) to facilitate change, and improve the safety process.

B. The evidences of success for this position would include: behavior changes to reduce risk, environment improvements (e.g. walking conditions) and improvement in the percentage of safe work practices. Continuous improvement is expected and quantifiable goals will be developed jointly.

C. A safety coordinator will not be called to testify or otherwise furnish evidence of any kind in any formal investigation or other disciplinary proceeding involving charges against an employee.

111. Establishment of Safety Committees

At any location, the division management and BLE may agree to establish a local safety committee which will meet on a regular basis, but not less than quarterly. The number of BLE participants will be determined by management, with the safety committee members selected by any involved BLE division. Each BLE division retains the option of replacing its safety committee members with thirty days’ written notice to the appropriate company officer. All decisions and recommendations of the local safety committee will be by consensus. Where issues cannot be resolved by the local safety committee, the issue  in question will be progressed to the Division General Manager and Safety Coordinator.

IV. Duties and Responsibilities of Safety Committees

The duties and responsibilities of each local safety committee will be to identify safety concerns and make recommendations for resolution of identified issues.

V. Risk Identification Process

At locations where local union representatives and local management agree, a formal risk identification process may be included as one tool in our effort to build a safer workplace. Where the parties agree to this process, the safety coordinator will work with the designated company officers to develop a program for training safety observers and coordinating the information received from them.

A. Management will determine the appropriate number of safety observers at each location, but selection of the safety observers will be made by the involved BLE division(s). Safety observers will monitor specific critical work tasks. They will be given the necessary training on the process and will keep a “blind’ report of specific risks identified. The blind report should note whether the work tasks are performed properly, but make no notation of date, time, train number, names of employees observed, or any other identifying information.

B. At designated intervals prescribed by the coordinator and management, safety observers will furnish the safety coordinator a report of the tasks observed. The safety coordinator will combine all such reports into a single report. This report will also be “blind” and not contain the names of the safety observers or any other identifying information as outlined in item A, above.

C. The safety coordinator will work with the designated company officer to analyze the information contained in the report to identify areas of risk. They will then jointly develop countermeasures necessary to address those areas of risk and insure that risk is reduced.

D. Where the parties have mutually agreed to include Risk Identification Process as part of the joint safety initiative, this process may be discontinued by either party serving 10 days’ advance written notice.

VI. Compensation

A. A fill-time safety coordinator will be paid on a salaried basis, ensuring that he/she experiences no loss of earnings compared to what he/she earned in scheduled service during his/her highest paid six months of the previous calendar year. Lump sums and any other unusual payments received during that six months shall be approximately factored into his/her salary to prevent any windfall either to the employee or company. Service as a safety coordinator shall not deprive the employee of any element of compensation he/she would have received had he/she remained in typical scheduled service. All normal employment benefits which the employee would have received in typical scheduled service will remain in place on the same basis. Full-time safety coordinators will be reimbursed for necessary business expenses consistent with BNSF’s policy.

B. A member of a local safety committee or a safety observer who attends an authorized safety meeting or training that lasts four hours or less, will be compensated at a minimum of one half of a basic day at the straight time rate of the last service performed. Individuals attending meetings or training sessions that last more than four hours, will be paid at a minimum of a basic day at the straight time rate of the last service performed. However, when an employee is required to miss time from his/her assignment, he/she will be compensated for actual lost earnings. Compensation received as a member of a local safety committee or a safety observer who attends an authorized safety meeting or training session will be used to calculate vacation credit for following year. Part- time safety coordinators will be compensated pursuant to this Section B. All positions identified in this Section B will be reimbursed with necessary business expenses consistent with BNSF policy.

VII. Dispute Resolution

Disputes may arise between the parties regarding issues such as whether a particular employee is eligible for alternative handling, appropriateness of a specific alternative handling plan, safety coordinator duties or safety committee handling. In the event such disputes cannot be resolved locally, the following process will be followed:

A. In the event that an interpretation of this Agreement causes a disagreement between local labor and management, the general committee may request a conference with the line AVP or his/her designee.

B. If no agreement is reached, the incident will be handled under prevailing collective bargaining agreements, company policies and procedures. Time limits will be administered in accordance with Part I, Section VII of this Agreement.

VIII - General Provisions

I. Cancellation Clause

This Agreement will remain in effect for a minimum of one year, after which it may be cancelled, in its entirety, by the General Chairman serving sixty days’ written notice to the  Vice President, Labor Relations BNSF. Otherwise, this Agreement will remain in effect for a minimum of two years, after which it may be cancelled, in its entirety, by the Vice President, Labor Relations BNSF serving sixty days’ written notice on the General Chairman. In the event this Agreement is cancelled, the parties shall fully retain the same rights and prerogatives which they held prior to this Agreement, as if the Agreement had never been made.

II: Savings Clause

This Agreement is made without prejudice to either party’s right to exercise any other rights or prerogatives that it may possess. Except in connection with efforts to enforce any aspect of this Agreement, the existence of this Agreement shall not constitute evidence of a course of dealing or past practice, and shall not be cited or referred to in any other case or controversy to support any argument that either party has a duty to bargain over any particular subject matter.

Signed this______________ day of _____________________________, 2002.

Effective on_________________________________________________, 2002.



John J. Fleps
Vice President-Labor Relations
P. 0. Box 961030
Fort Worth, TX 76161-0030
April 1,2002
File: Safety Summit Proposal

Dear Mr. Fleps:

This is in reference to the proposal currently being considered for ratification by BLE, resultant from our ongoing joint discussions referred to as the Safety Summit. During our last meeting prior to finalizing the current proposal, the Carrier agreed to identify the pay codes that would be excluded from the “actual lost earnings” make whole language found in Part II, Section VI, Subpart B for part time involvement in the Safety program. This is to confirm our understanding that the attached document, receive by fax from Assistant Vice President Siegele, is the agreed to list of pay codes that will not be included in calculating lost earnings for employees participating in part time safety related programs and that all other involved pay codes will be included in this calculation.

Note: code will be added soon as I get them. The copy of the letter I have is incomplete.