Norfolk Southern lays off 95 workers at Altoona Shops

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Intermodal makes a move, but rail traffic still down for the year.
David C. Lester

Tuesday, November 5, was not a happy day for 153 Norfolk Southern workers.  The railroad laid off 95 employees at the Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pa., and 58 workers at the diesel shops at DeButts Yard in Chattanooga.

Here is Norfolk Southern’s statement regarding the Altoona layoffs: “Today, Norfolk Southern’s Mechanical Department announced furloughs for 95 employees at its Juniata Locomotive Shop. These furloughs are part of the railroad’s organizational realignment announced earlier this year. Consistent with our strategic plan and current business levels, our ability to streamline operations and use fewer locomotives has required the difficult but necessary decision to reduce our locomotive mechanical forces due to the decreased demand for locomotive maintenance and repair. Norfolk Southern will continue to evaluate staffing needs as our business evolves. Furloughed employees may have the opportunity to apply for positions, as available, elsewhere on the NS system.”

The Altoona Mirror reported that Robert Kutz, president of the Blair Bedford Central Labor Council, said “I am wondering when the hemorrhaging is going to stop. They told us there were definitely only going to be 50 more, but they went to 95. When will it stop? We’ve been taking this all season long. This is not a good trend.” Norfolk Southern also laid off 100 Altoona workers on September 3, which, combined with yesterday’s layoffs, brings total employment at Altoona Shops down to approximately 555.

Also concerned about the layoffs, Joe Hurd, president/CEO of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce said:  “There’s no easy way to lose that many jobs and not feel extremely sorry for those who suddenly face uncertainty. “Not just the employees but their families as well. I’m convinced, after having a rather in-depth discussion with Rudy Husband at Norfolk Southern, that the realities associated with a downturn in their industry left them with rather limited options. Based on the data, it could actually have been worse. It’s a helpless feeling to watch a situation unfold and recognize that there’s so little you can do to turn it around.”

For information about yesterday’s layoffs at the diesel shops at DeButts yard, click here.

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