Metrolink engineers, conductors threaten boycott

Metrolink engineers and conductors are threatening an en masse boycott of new personality-profiling tests required as a result of the 2008 Chatsworth disaster, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

The dispute sets up a potentially major labor-management clash just as the five-county Metrolink system is shifting to a new contractor to provide crews for trains that have nearly 1 million boardings a month.

The screening tests, frequently used by corporate managers to gauge the suitability of job applicants, are already required by Amtrak, the incoming operating contractor, when it hires engineers and conductors.

But two powerful railroad unions are strongly objecting to a Metrolink-Amtrak agreement finalized last week, the Los Angeles Times reported. It requires experienced crew members on the regional rail service to take and pass the tests to continue working on the system.

"We are not going to be taking these tests," Tim Smith, California legislative chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, told the Los Angeles Times. "That's it. We'll see where it ends."

Added Ray Garcia of the United Transportation Union, which represents the conductors: "We're all going to stand together."

Union leaders told The Times that, unless the dispute is resolved, Amtrak may not be able to field qualified train crews when it takes over operations this summer.

Amtrak is set to assume operation of the 500-mile Metrolink system July 1. Connex Railroad, the current operator, opted not to pursue a contract extension when its relationship with Metrolink soured after the Chatsworth crash, which killed 25 and injured 135.

The push for psychological screening was prompted by findings that a Metrolink engineer who repeatedly violated safety rules caused the catastrophe.

Union leaders told The Times they don't object to testing potential hires who aren't union members, but forcing existing train crews to pass the tests could arbitrarily cost good workers their jobs.

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