CSX Transportation Inc., one of the nation's largest railroads, announced yesterday that it has reached what it hopes will be a precedent-setting agreement to reduce the size of its train crews by one-third.
The United Transportation Union has agreed to allow the railroad to operate trains on the 210-mile-long Georgia Road with two-member crews rather than the current three-member crews. The Georgia Road runs from Augusta, Ga., to Atlanta.
Although the company operates only 10 to 12 trains a day on the route, the railroad hopes the agreement will set a pattern for other portions of the CSX system, which runs about 1,300 trains a day.
"It's the first of what we hope will be many to come," said Lynn Johnson, a spokesman for the railroad, referring to the agreement.
In 1988, the company embarked on a similar program to reduce crew sizes to three members from the four-and-five member crews that prevailed at the time. Those negotiations resulted in three-person crews for 98 percent of the system.
The standard crew in the industry consists of an engineer, a conductor and a brakeman. CSX Transportation wants to operate trains with just an engineer and a conductor.
Under the deal reached with the union, workers who are no longer needed will be offered $60,000 in severance pay if they voluntarily give up their jobs. If the offer does not eliminate enough jobs, CSX could force workers to give up their jobs for severance payments of $45,000.