General Electric today announced a corporate turnaround plan, that cuts its dividend by half, and focuses on its aviation, health care, and energy businesses. Exactly what it means for GE transportation, is up in the air as new CEO John Flannery promises investors a more focused company.

The 125-year-old conglomerate will cut 25% of staff from the home office, and reduce the seats on the board from 18 to 12, bringing in three new board members for their expertise. The plan calls for divesting more than 20-billion dollars in assets from the company's other wide-ranging interests and GE Transportation and its locomotive business are part of that group.

For transportation, UE 506 President Scott Slawson said, "It could mean a merger with another GE business, a merger with another company, or a spin-off or sale, but it will not happen overnight."   But he believes Mr. Flannery is making long overdue decisions, and recognizing what he called abuses at the top. "Competitiveness just doesn't necessarily mean everybody at the bottom takes pay cuts and benefits cuts and suffers, it means that we all play a share in it equally," Slawson said, "and I think that from what we're seeing of Mr. Flannery so far, I think he very much understands that. I think that he's making the changes he thinks are necessary to move the company forward successfully."

The union and GE Transportation recently failed in decision bargaining aimed at keeping 570 jobs slated for "transfer of work" to Texas.  Slawson says there is no timetable for those jobs to go. Instead he hopes the new GE boss will ask the tough questions about fixed costs to keep work in Erie, where there is skill, space and a lot of loyalty. "Why is corporate headquarters in Chicago, why is it not here in Erie, how much does that cost the business?" Slawson asked. "It's nothing against the Fort Worth facility but right now, this site is capable of handling all transportation volume that's done domestically, so there's no reason to operating two locomotive sites," He added.

Slawson said his heart goes out to local retirees who bought shares through the GE Stock program and held onto them, those who count on the dividends. Speaking on behalf of his union brothers and sisters still working at the plant, he says he is pulling for the GE recovery plan to succeed. "We take great pride in being GE employees so we hope these changes are successful, and we hope to remain GE employees."