Oct 20, 2021 - News

SEPTA strike possible as contract talks drag on

Buses sit idle at SEPTA's Frankford Transportation Center in this 2005 file photo. Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

Buses sit idle at SEPTA's Frankford Transportation Center in 2005. Photo: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

The union representing SEPTA workers hasn't ruled out a strike as contract negotiations with the transit agency come down to the wire.

What's happening: Transit Workers Union Local 234 president Willie Brown told Mike that demands related to paid parental leave remain a significant roadblock in negotiations ahead of Sunday's contract expiration date.

  • "Nobody wants to strike," he said about the union representing 5,100 SEPTA employees. "We're going to do everything we can to avert a strike. If that's something that happens, it happens out of our control."

State of play: Negotiations moved to a hotel room in Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District on Monday in an effort to strike a deal, Brown confirmed.

  • SEPTA has pitched the union a pair of proposals: a four-year contract with no wage increases and a two-year contract with "small raises," Brown said.
  • SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch added that the shorter-term deal includes a pandemic payment and other benefits.

Meanwhile, the union wants its members who worked during the pandemic to be paid in recompense. At least 11 members died from the virus.

  • Brown said the union's demands include raises between 3-4%, hazard pay, death compensation and benefits for workers' families.

What they're saying: SEPTA is finalizing service plans in the event of a strike and continuing to negotiate for a contract that is "fair and financially responsible," Busch told Mike in an email.

  • "We have to find a way to provide fair wages and benefits to employees, while also facing the challenges ahead," he wrote.

The intrigue: The union hadn't held a strike authorization vote as of Tuesday, but Brown declined to say whether a vote was scheduled.

  • Brown also sidestepped a question about whether members would remain on the job without a contract if negotiations extended beyond Sunday.
  • "I'll make a decision once we get close to it," he said.

Of note: TWU strikes over contract negotiations aren't uncommon, the most recent of which was in 2016.

The bottom line: Some are already planning for a potential strike. Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite asked parents Tuesday to prepare for possibly having to shift to virtual learning.

  • Hite warned that a SEPTA strike would have a "devastating impact" on the district's operations.

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