Wednesday, Aug 23, 2017
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Economy

CSX to lay off 34 workers in Lake Township

Unit’s closing is necessary to cut costs, railroad maintains

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    34 jobs will be lost as part of reorganization at CSX's Stanley Yard in Lake Township.

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Nearly half the workers at one of CSX Transportation’s two Lake Township railyards will lose their jobs Wednesday when the railroad closes the classification hump used to sort train cars by gravity.

Stanley Yard still will be used to break down and reassemble trains using switching locomotives, but the hump and 34 train-service and maintenance workers associated with it will shut down “as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to be more efficient and reduce operating costs,” Gail Lobin, a CSX spokesman, wrote in an email interview.

The affected employees were notified late last week, and depending on their union agreements and seniority may have opportunities to transfer to other positions at CSX, Ms. Lobin said.

About 40 employees will continue to work at Stanley. CSX overall employs about 360 people in the Toledo area, she said.

The Stanley hump’s closing occurs as CSX embarks on what could be a significant rearrangement of its railroad system under its new chief executive officer, E. Hunter Harrison, whom the company hired this month.

Mr. Harrison is known for a Precision Scheduled Railroading philosophy that attempts to reduce the number of times freight shipments pass through sorting yards between shipper and receiver and boost railroad companies’ financial performance.

He came to CSX shortly after resigning from the chief executive’s office at Canadian Pacific, and he previously held that title at the Canadian National and Illinois Central railroads. All three went on cost-cutting binges under his leadership that included building longer trains, closing yards, reducing workforces, and storing or selling locomotives deemed surplus.

Lisa Casini, a spokesman for the UTU-SMART union — one of two that represents railroad operating employees — said she would refer questions to a union official but did not respond with answers by Monday evening.

John Bentley, a spokesman for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Teamsters, declined to comment.

CSX announced last week a similar hump closing and job cuts at its Tilford Yard in Atlanta.

In Ohio, CSX also operates major classification yards in Cincinnati and the Huron County city of Willard. It also has a former hump yard in Walbridge now used mainly to sort shipments of new automobiles and park trainload shipments of grain, coal, and other bulk commodities that don’t require enroute sorting.

Ms. Lobin said Monday the railroad had “no specific announcements to make about changes to any other operations.”

Even before hiring Mr. Harrison, CSX had taken several cost-cutting measures that included combining trains and creating schedules under which many routes ran every 28 hours instead of daily, resulting in six trains per week instead of seven. It also closed part of a railyard in Russell, Ky., and shuttered part of a mainline south from eastern Kentucky to South Carolina in response to dwindling coal traffic from that region.

The 28-hour arrangement ended, however, soon after Mr. Harrison took office March 6.

CSX acquired Stanley Yard as part of Norfolk Southern’s joint acquisition and partitioning of Conrail in 1998. Norfolk Southern obtained most of Conrail’s Toledo-area operations, but CSX got the Lake Township facility and the former Conrail branch line between Toledo, Findlay, and Columbus.

In a subsequent cost-cutting move, CSX closed Stanley in 2004 and reassigned its duties to Walbridge Yard and other nearby facilities. That closing lasted in practice for just a few days before locomotive-powered “flat switching” resumed on several tracks at Stanley, and within a few months the hump reopened as well.

While at Canadian Pacific, Mr. Harrison proposed merging that company with Norfolk Southern, and also approached CSX after NS rebuffed that offer.

At CSX, he has asked to be reimbursed for $84 million he forfeited at CP by ending his contract there early, as well as being promised options to buy up to 9 million shares of CSX stock at its share price on the day he took office. Shareholders are to vote on the $84 million reimbursement in May.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

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