Q: What is the difference between merger negotiations and Section 6 negotiations?
A: The Railway Labor Act (RLA) sets out the provisions governing Section 6 negotiations*. The steps involving direct negotiations, oversight by the National Mediation Boards (NMB), mediation, etc are set in the provisions of the law:
- An RLA labor group’s contract has an amendable date (versus an expiration date);
- The NMB controls the timetable if the parties enter mediation; and
- If granted a proffer of arbitration, both labor and management can engage in self help remedies.
In Section 6 negotiations, the entire contract is open and management is free to ask for “productivity gains,” which is usually what we would call “concessions.” It is not unusual to take years to reach a tentative agreement under the Section 6 negotiations process.
Unlike Section 6 negotiations, our contract is not amendable in merger negotiations. Merger negotiations normally involve a more limited scope of items focused on the transitions needed for the merger. However, the JNC sought to achieve improvements for FAs from both carriers, so we were put in the position of reaching a “mid-term” agreement with a duration that extends beyond the current contract (i.e. JCBA amendable in 2021 vs. current CBA amendable in 2019) in order to do so.
* The phrase “Section 6 negotiations” comes from where the provisions covering negotiations under the RLA was historically located: in Section 6. Although the RLA has now been incorporated into the broader United States Code of federal statutes, the name stuck.