Claims are part of our everyday lives here at the BNSF. With this obviously known, we need to make sure that every member has a complete understanding of the claims processes and agreements and how they effect us. There is a large amount of misinformation on how claims are to be input, how claims are handled and what actually is a valid claim or not. So hopefully this section will help us clarify a very important part of our union.
One of the most important parts of this process is to have the agreements. Once you have the agreements, you need to read and refer to them when trying to understand if the carrier has instructed you to do something outside of your agreement. The carrier will instruct you to violate the agreements and this will start the claims process. One misunderstanding of the agreements is that the carrier can not instruct you to do something outside of the agreements pertaining to your specific job. They can not instruct you to violate a rule, federal law or the safety of yourself and your union Brothers and Sisters.
When the carrier does not follow the agreements, it is up to you to file every claim for what is owed to you. It is also very well known that many of these violations occur as the carrier officer and yourself do not know the agreements. Once again, it is your responsibility to read, understand and/or request understanding of the agreements as it is your responsibility to input and be knowledgeable in this process.
There are many different agreements out there. You have some that encompass the entire SMART-TD, some that are only for the BNSF and more that are down to the former railroads and locations. It is important to know that the grievance that you input has be factual and have supporting information about the violation(s) and supporting information from the agreement(s).
We also hear that people don't put in claims as "the carrier will just deny it anyways" or "I don't have time to input it in the computer." You must understand that this is a violation. Putting in a claim takes less than five minutes. This five minutes will hold the carrier to the agreements and ensure that these agreements are held firm.
If you forward a claim to your Local Chairperson, you will need to review these guidelines set forth by the General Chairman's office. We will not process claims that do not have supporting documentation per the General Committee guidelines and the UTU Constitution. Remember, you already have a large majority of the paperwork when you come on duty. Keep your paperwork, make copies and turn it in. If we turn in a claim without supporting documentation and the carrier challenges it, we could lose the grievance for the entire system. This is very important and your responsibility. You must also forward this claim electronically to your representative to process.
The UTU Constitution states:
CONSIDERATION OF GRIEVANCES
Grievances must be reduced to writing, contain complete information on the subject matter and be submitted to the Local Committee of Adjustment holding jurisdiction. Grievances involving violations of the agreement, reinstatement, safety or health and welfare shall be given prompt handling with local officials of the employer. A report by the committee will be made at the next meeting. When grievances are being considered by a Local, only those members employed in a craft on the territory involved shall be permitted to vote, provided that at least five (5) such members must be present before any action can be taken. If more than one (1) craft is involved, the grievance shall be considered and determined separately by each craft.
We also have a expedited claims handling agreement that we utilize in our committee. This allows us to handle all claims with one designated carrier officer. If at this time that a grievance is not agreed upon at the local level, we will then forward to the General Chairman's office for handling. Once you turn in your claim(s), we will post on the Claims Conference page the status of that claim. We will then have the handling and status of that claim at the local meeting and entered into record on the Reports of Officers.