For as long as this author can remember, we have had a constant battle with the Carrier over the proper interpretation of the phrase “actual and necessary” where meal expenses are concerned. The Carrier has consistently been the lunchroom bully that tries to take meal money away from members. If you order an appetizer with your steak, you often find yourself in uncomfortable, and unnecessary, conversation with the supervisor. The BRS often ends up having to debate the necessity of the total cost with the Carrier. While we seldom lose those debates, we also know that for every member out there that chooses to stand up for their right to a full reimbursement of meal costs, there are countless others who simply choose to reduce the amount they turn in. While we have always been steadfast in our position that we should stand up to the “lunchroom bully”, we also understand many of us are simply not confrontational people and prefer to take the path of least resistance. For this reason, and many others, the committee has sought to obtain a reasonable daily per diem rate for meals for at least the last decade.
We are happy to report an agreement was recently signed to provide a daily per diem option in lieu of the current expense reimbursement process. Once the pay codes are in place, the agreement will be implemented. We expect this to occur in the very near future and, once that happens, a 30-day open enrollment period will immediately ensue. There will be a similar enrollment period every year thereafter. Those subsequent enrollment periods will be the month of November. Every Signalman, Assistant Signalman, Foreman, and MCT will have the annual option to choose whether or not to enroll in the per diem program for the upcoming calendar year.
The agreement stipulates that the parties may agree to extend this option to other employees at a later date, which is our desire. The daily rate will begin at $59.95 for each day worked. Partial per diem allotments are provided for in cases where existing agreement terms stipulate one’s entitlement. Sunday night meals for mobile employees and existing provisions for those collecting mileage in lieu of lodging are two examples. The daily rate will be adjusted semi-annually in the same manner as mobile and off-district payments are adjusted today. This means the rate will be adjusted each June and December. The full text of the agreement can be found on our website