As previously reported, an Agreement was recently reached with BNSF regarding an optional meal per diem for signal crews and MCTs. In conjunction with the terms of that Agreement, an annual enrollment period is to be extended to all eligible employees between November 1 – November 30. Despite delays encountered by the BNSF TS department in its development of necessary support software and pay codes, the per diem option is still planned to go into effect on 1/1/24, making this November your first opportunity to enroll.
Each eligible employee will have the option to either enroll in the daily per diem benefit or remain under the “actual and necessary” provisions of Rule 13. Enrollment elections made each November will remain in effect for the following calendar year. No action on your part is required if you choose to remain under the existing expense policy as it exists today.
If you enroll in the meal per diem option, there are some things you should know. First, per diem payments will be added to your paycheck, but will not be taxed. Also, the daily rate will be adjusted on June 1 and December 1 of each year, in accordance with the same method used to calculate Rule 46H and 48E allowances. Therefore, the initial daily rate will be $59.95 +- the percentage change in the CPI-W index from April to October of 2023. That data is customarily released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics the following month (November). Therefore, we will publish the exact per diem rate for the first half of 2024 during the month of November. If history is any guide we can expect that amount to be at least a slight increase from the $59.95/day it would be today.
Throughout negotiations for this benefit, we were very mindful of the fact this “one size” wouldn’t “fit all.” In other words, we understand there are some urban areas where members may be better off under existing expense rules. If that is where you find yourself, then simply do not opt into the per diem benefit. Your reluctance to do so may even help in future negotiations. Some may find this per diem option to be an improvement. Some may not – the choice is yours. And that is the very thing that we feel makes this Agreement a success – putting the choice where it belongs, in your hands. Just be sure and make that choice in November during the enrollment period.