ROANOKE, AUG. 25 -- Norfolk Southern Corp. is offering its 7,500 conductors and brakemen $40,000 each to quit their jobs.

The one-time payment would also include continued medical benefits to age 65 and $10,000 death benefits for employes 55 and older.

The offer is the latest in a string of buyouts offered by the company as a way of cutting costs by getting protected union employes off the payroll.

Since late 1986, about 800 employes have accepted company buyout offers, said Robert Fort, assistant vice president for public relations.

"It sounds like a lot of money, but it's not, if a man has a long way to retire," said J.L. Ferris, a regional representative for conductors in the United Transportation Union. "This is a good thing for people close to the age of retirement."

Last year the company offered conductors and brakemen $25,000.

Ferris said the company is "fishing to see what they can get."

In June, the company offered engineers and firemen $50,000. In July, the company offered an early retirement plan to management personnel 55 or older.

The management plan offered employes additional pension benefits, retirement supplements, free moves and other incentives. It also accepted anyone who qualified.

"They {management} just got a whole lot better offer," Ferris said. "It's just a shame they didn't offer us what they offered them."

Only eight of the 250 conductors in Ferris' district accepted last year's offer