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Conrail unions derail wage hikes

Conrail unions have tentatively agreed to forgo wage increases totaling $200 million a year in a desperate effort to keep the struggling Northeastern freight and commuter line alive and save jobs of up to 40,000 of 70,000 workers now on the payroll.

Monitor labor correspondent Ed Townsend reports that management employees will also give up $29 million in wage and benefit increases if union members ratify the agreement announced by L. Stanley Crane, chairman of Conrail; Fred J. Kroll, chairman of the unions' Railway Labor Executives' Association; and Rep. James J. Florio (D) of New Jersey, who is speartheading a congressional fight to help US railroads.

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It is understood that those who forgo wage increases will be given preferred stock in Conrail. Present wages will not be affected.

According to Mr. Florio, the agreement should show that a goal of a Conrail independent of the federal government can be achieved. Conrail is a federally owned 17,000-mile system in the Northeast and Middle West that is $3.3 billion in debt to the government.

The Reagan administration earlier proposed to cut off funds for Conrail within two years and to try to sell off parts of the system to private carriers and eliminate other segments -- including commuter lines -- or turn them over to state or local governments for continued operation.

This week, however, Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis said the administration might rec onsider its 1982 termination plan and approve an additional two years of funding if certain standards were met.

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