JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — * President Bush is upholding three arbitrators' decisions in the railway labor disputes that triggered a nationwide rail shutdown in June, the White House said Aug. 3.
The arbitration grew out of a strike in June by the International Association of Machinists against a regional railway that touched off a lockout by major rail lines that effectively halted the nation's rail system.
"I don't really think (Bush) had an alternative" to upholding the decisions, as he had signed legislation in June that ordered the railroads to restore operations and created a binding arbitration process, said Mark Filipovic, the Machinists' assistant railroad coordinator.
Management felt the same way. "We did not anticipate disapproval by the White House," said Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black.
The White House decision makes the arbitrators' rulings final in three of the four remaining disputes:
* The International Association of Machinists and the National Railway Labor Conference. An arbitrator awarded skill differentials of 25 cents to 50 cents an hour for certain job categories, as the union had requested. The Machinists also got the right to establish their own health and welfare program separate from other unions.
* The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Amtrak, the passenger rail line. The arbitrator awarded a lump sum of $2,000 in retroactive wages for each of the union's 1,300 workers, close to the union's request, plus a 20 percent wage increase over six years. Amtrak wanted to give only 10 percent increases.
* The International Association of Machinists and Amtrak, the national passenger line. An arbitrator awarded the union a 24 percent wage increase over six years but rejected skill differentials.