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Deadline for rail settlement nears; economic stakes high

Less than 30 days remain for railroad workers and their employers to work out a contract settlement. If no agreement is reached, members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) will be free to strike Sept. 19 and members of the United Transporation Union (UTU) on Sept. 20.

President Reagan forestalled a possible July 10 strike when, under the authorization of the Railway Labor Act, he set up the emergency board to study the union's dispute with the major carriers. The President created a similar board a week later when the 86,000 UTU was set to strike.

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In blocking the BLE and UTU strikes threats a month ago, President Reagan said that a walkout lasting more than one week would seriously effect the movement of grain, coal, and defense materiel and would cause layoffs of more than half a million workers nationally, adding to unemployment problems and setting back economic recovery.

The Railway Labor Act emergency board set up by President Reagan has recommended that the settlement be limited to less than one-third of union demands.

The board's nonbinding recommendations are to be used as a basis in negotiations.

If the September deadlines aren't met, emergency legislation by Congress would be the last resort to avoid walkouts that would cripple railroad transportation. The 117 carriers involved handle almost all rail service except for that of Conrail, a quasi-governmental freight and commuter service in the Northeast, and part of Amtrak's passenger service.

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