AFAIK, at least in the case of OBS, the intercraft flexibility that Amtrak is looking for is the ability to call Sam who normally works as a sleeping car attendant to work in the dining car because Johnny is either sick or on vacation/personal day. They aren't looking to have people work multiple jobs while on the train. As it stands right now, Amtrak has to pay workers on the extra board for not working just in case Amtrak actually needs them to take a shift one day, simply because they can't call up Sam to come work in the dining car. This is not the case on the Auto Train, which as noted operates under a different contract.
Turning to point #2, Eric (GG-1) and I have actually discussed this privately and I actually gained a new understanding of things. I'm still not sure that I'm happy with how things are, but at least I do understand that the union must fight to save the worker's job. Which brings us back to exactly what Eric and others have said, take names and report the bad workers. It's the only way to help Amtrak to weed out the bad apples.
But I have to say that it still infuriates me that 10 workers can show up for work and work very hard, while ignoring the one or two workers who have chosen to stand in the corner. So much for brotherhood. The 10 are working harder than they have to, thanks to the 2 selfish workers who have decided that they are better than their brothers.
Aight... let's clarify a few things a little more in detail. When we speak of "intercraft flexibilty," the only places where that is attained is either on the extra board (when employees are qualified in multiple crafts which is encouraged and required for new employees after 2004) or in the case of "Auto Train's" portion in the OBS contract.
We'll use Alan's example of "Sam" here for illustration purposes. We'll establish him as an employee who was hired prior to 2004. He holds a "regular bulletined position" which has a regular set schedule of work days and rest days. It can be in the form of four days on and four days off or something similar depending on the train and the job structure. We'll make his regular a job which is in the sleepers, we'll have him hold the 9210 car sleeper on cycle number six within the eight man work cycle (the amount of employees needed to cover 9210 for eight days with four employees at home on the rest and four out on a trip in this case). HE IS NEVER CALLED for work! His schedule is set. He knows when he is supposed to come to work and what his off days are unless he is displaced by a senior employee. That is the only time he can be called is to notify him he is displaced. In other words his job duties are on train #92 for the Northbound trip and on train #97 for the Southbound return trip. He knows his duties (hopefully) as a sleeping car attendant and his report times at both ends. The extra board is responsible for filling "regular bulletined positions" which are open in the case of sickness, vacation, etc. The vast majority of extra board employees ARE cross-trained in several crafts allowing them to be used accordingly! Amtrak does not usually change these jobs around in transit except in very unusual circumstances. Now back to Sam. He decides to take the upcoming trip off for vacation. An extra board employee who is rested who also may have worked a trip as a waiter/waitress on their prior trip, will be called to fill Sam's job. Let's say a regular waiter takes their vacation at the same time for the same trip, and another extraboard employee is called to fill that job in the diner. Now let's say Sam's replacement doesn't show up or misses the train for some last minute reason. Amtrak DOES HAVE rights to move "that one" extraboard employee (because he does not hold a regular job) who is filling the job in the diner out of there and up into the sleeper (as long as they're qualified) to replace Sam's replacement so that the first class component is covered! It is more important than the diner job. Now with all that in mind, let's say the coach attendant in the rear who is holding that job as a "regular bulletined position" in the same job cycle as Sam's job (which is how the jobs are usually posted thus making that person part of Sam's regular crew) is in attendance and working this trip, Amtrak CANNOT REQUIRE them (though they can ask) to come up to sleeper and fill Sam's job because they hold a regular job! Hopefully I am potraying a good illustration here.
Now as of 2004 around October of that year if my memory serves me right, all new OBS employees have a new stipulation in the contract! It established what's known as a "utility worker position." A crew supply point such as LAX or MIA, can only create these jobs after all the regular and extraboard OBS positions have been filled in that crewbase. OBS employees hired prior to 2004 can opt in or opt out of working a utility workers position. If they chose to fill one, then they are bound by its requirements which allows Amtrak to intercraft them at any position on the train in the same trip (similar to Auto Train, but different). The get paid the amount of their highest craft attained for working that position. New OBS employees, however, (those hired after 2004... I am not sure about LSA direct hires, though) have to accept a utilty workers position should they be asked to fill one, and receive compensation under that craft which is a reduced rate! It is not bad for the old heads in OBS, but not that great for the new folks. But it was ratified. I personally think the union did a good job at covering the existing employees at the time, and I believe Amtrak was satisfied with that agreement overall. And new employees are made aware of this (hopefully) before they are hired. Anyway, enough of all that...
Now in regard to surely workers, etc. Just as Alan states in this posting, folks should take names of the bad apples when they encounter them. The union will not defend them forever. A little while before I left I witnessed a local chairman (who works as a sleepr TA) disciplining a coach attendant on one trip. He told them that "they needed to do their job and follow the rules!" and that "we're are not going to continue to cover for you to slack off. Amtrak has a business to run, too."
And as a matter of personal opinion, I didn't see a huge protection for one who doesn't work safe, follow the rules, slack off, or perform half a** work (at least not after a couple of times).
Anyway, in my closing remarks for this topic. I want to point out the fact that unions are a necessary evil in many industries with rail being one of them. It is true some of the unions need to get a little more with the times. But unless there was some drastic changes to take place, I feel the loss of the union would not be a good thing for a long period of time. So the idea of "busting the unions" I just cannot support as well as the "busting of management!" I have worked both sides in my past careers, so I see the potential issues which can become interesting. I no longer work at Amtrak. I work in the freight sector, now. And I see the need of the union there, too. They need to get with the times as well in many areas. I do, however, miss my OBS job at Amtrak in the dining car at some times. I am happy at the stabilty the Mr Kummant has seemed to bring to Amtrak in this last year or so. The company was so close to a major "partial shutdown" IMHO, it wasn't funny! I took a trip with my friend here on the boards (trainboy3250), and I was very happy with some of the changes. Some more need to be made (mainly restore some of the loss jobs due to the SDS), but overall everything seemed more stable on the front line and my former fellow co-workers seemed to be a good spirits compared to the couple years earlier. I still would like to see management make a bigger presence out on the trains. That is where the product is and what the customers ultimately pay for. It is not in their offices! They need to be in the stations and on the trains more than they are. That would boost a big majority of the passengers' views of Amtrak IMO.
OBS gone freight....
Thanks for explaining all that OBS...it gives me a little to think about and now I must go and get some tylenol because after reading this entire string, I have a "union type" headache!! Just some humor to lighten things up!!