President Reagan ordered creation of an emergency panel Friday to end a 2 1/2-month-old railroad walkout after strikers began picketing Conrail sites in the Northeast and Midwest.
Reagan established the three-member emergency board and gave it 30 days to recommend how to reach a full settlement between Maine Central Railroad and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees.
"The establishment of this emergency panel means the strikers are to go back to work," a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration said.
Union spokesman Jed Dodd said the union began pulling its pickets in the 15 states served by Conrail on Friday afternoon after receiving the presidential order.
More than 100 members of the union struck Maine Central on March 3 in a dispute with the railroad's owners, Guilford Transportation Industries Inc. of Billerica, Mass., over job security, wages and severance pay.
Picketing started Thursday at Conrail yards in Massachusetts, New York, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and the District of Columbia after an appeals court allowed picketing to resume. Service was disrupted as train crews refused to cross picket lines.