WARREN Union protests remote operation of train engines

CSX says remote-controlled trains don't leave the yards.
WARREN -- Some railroad workers say they are concerned about trains' running with no one at the switch.
Within the last several weeks, CSX Transportation Inc. began moving trains in a yard at the WCI steel plant on Pine Avenue using remote control piloting equipment and a crew of two stationed farther back in the train.
In the past, a crew of three, including one engineer, has been required to move a train, said Tony Marrara, president of Division 411 of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.
With the remote control equipment, brakemen and conductors will be able to run trains without an engineer.
"They don't care what the future of our jobs will be or what the safety on our roadways will be," said state Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, a railroad engineer.
At a press conference in front of WCI on Wednesday, Hagan and union officials decried the railroad's decision and announced their support of legislation designed to prevent remotely driven trains from crossing state roads.
It proposes a fine of $10,000 a day for violations.
Company response
"Our remote-control operations are designed for switching within terminal and yard lines and there is no plan to extend beyond that area," said David Hall, spokesman for Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX.
The company plans to begin using the technology in as many as 60 terminals this year, Hall said.
Union officials said the yard at the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Plant is going to make the transition next week.
Use of remote control will likely cost two jobs each at WCI and Lordstown, Marrara said.
"That is just the start," he said.
Jim Ong, chairman of the brotherhood's Ohio legislative board, said that jobs for as many as one-quarter of its 1,400 members in Ohio could be in danger.
"This isn't really about remote control," he said. "It is about getting rid of the union."
Hall said that the switch to remote control would not result in layoffs.
Engineers earn about the same as brakemen and conductors, who are represented by a different union, but they don't have the same level of training in driving trains, Marrara said.
Hall said workers need 80 hours of training to operate the remote control.

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