By Jack King
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad has received a contract from the state Job Training Incentive Program Board for $350,000 to provide 35 new jobs at its Clovis railyard, said Theresa Varela, program manager of the state’s Job Training Incentive Program.
The railroad company applied for and received the contract in November, Varela said.
The Job Training Incentive Program Board — formerly the Industrial Development Training Board — awards contracts to companies that provide new jobs to New Mexico residents in manufacturing, production or non-retail services exported out of the state, Varela said.
Progress Rail, an Albertville, Ala., company that was to train 34 New Mexico workers to clean and inspect cars in BNSF’s Clovis yard, received a contract from the board in August for $236,258.
But, Progress Rail had not started hiring workers 30 days after the contract was set to start. Board personnel notified it in November the board would cancel the contract and the money went back into the board’s pool, said Kathy Keith, the board’s chairwoman.
Robert Pittard, head of Progress Rail, did not return a call requesting comment.
Danny L. Lancaster, vice general chairman, for the Transportation-Communications International Union, Carmen Division, said last week the National Mediation Board found against BNSF Oct. 18 in a dispute with the union over hiring carmen to work at the expanded Clovis railroad yard.
The board’s decision means BNSF will not be able to hire carmen at the yard through non-union contractors and carman jobs at the yard will be a closed shop, he said.
A November 1986 agreement between the railroad and the union protects union members’ rights to Clovis jobs, so long as there are four hours of work on railcars available in an 8-hour shift.
BNSF argued it was entitled to contract the work out, because there was a lack of qualified manpower available and because contracting would offer a considerable savings, but the mediation board found for the union, Lancaster said.
He said because of union work rules BNSF will hire between 50 and 70 new carmen, rather than the 35 mentioned in Progress Rail’s contract.
Eight union carmen are now working in the yard; however, under the new arrangement jobs are going first to union members willing to accept transfers to Clovis.
Eight union carmen are now working at the yard, but seven are from Texas and one is from Colorado. Fifteen or 16 workers from Belen are “on the list” to start work in Clovis, Lancaster said.
Under its contract with the Job Training Incentive Program Board, BNSF will only be paid for the New Mexico residents it hires, Varela said.
“That’s one of the things we look at in our compliance review and our final audit,” she said.
BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent confirmed last week that the National Mediation Board found against the company and that BNSF expects to fill between 50 and 70 jobs in Clovis with union employees. She said the company plans to hire at least 130 new workers at the yard.