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NS can close Hollidaysburg car shop Oct. 1 but must enhance employee protections, STB says


Surface Transportation Board Sept. 19 ruled that the closing of Norfolk Southern Corp.'s Hollidaysburg, Pa., car shop will be subject to enhanced labor protection requirements covering the shop's employees.

The board previously extended NS' planned closing date from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1 and required the railroad to prove why STB shouldn't cancel the shop shutdown altogether.

After considering responses from NS and other parties, the board determined that NS during Conrail merger proceedings made a general commitment to protect the well-being of Hollidaysburg and nearby Juniata locomotive shop employees, and make the shops an important part of the railroad's post-merger operations.

Although NS for more than two years operated and devoted resources to the shops, and continued to work with Altoona/Hollidaysburg area communities on economic development issues, the railroad's economic circumstances worsened, prompting NS to make operational and financial adjustments. Accordingly, STB ruled it wouldn't require NS to invest previously promised funds in the shops or keep the Hollidaysburg shop open after Oct. 1.

Board members believe there won't be sufficient work at Hollidaysburg to keep it viable, and requiring the railroad to continue shop operations could adversely affect other NS shops and employees, possibly leading the Class I to idle or shutdown other shops.

However, STB determined that New York Dock labor protection conditions imposed by the board in its Conrail decision might not adequately protect NS' shop employees.

Therefore, STB decided to supplement its original Conrail decision by requiring NS to provide Hollidaysburg employees who're transferred to other NS facilities automatic New York Dock certification benefits previously negotiated with certain car shop employees. NS must work out remaining benefit details by negotiating with involved unions.

STB also expects NS to provide every car shop employee an opportunity for employment elsewhere in the railroad's organization; any dismissed employees would be eligible for dismissal allowances pursuant to New York Dock conditions.

Beginning Jan. 2, 2002, NS on a quarterly basis must provide STB progress reports on the railroad's efforts to keep open the Juniata shop and help create alternative economic development projects for Altoona/Hollidaysburg.