SEPTA and local unions begin negotiations in Center City

SEPTA tracks. Credit: Mural Arts Program
SEPTA tracks. Credit: Mural Arts Program

President Barack Obama’s team of negotiators are bringing SEPTA and rail workers together Monday in a Center City hotel to kick off week-long discussions on a new deal.

“SEPTA, as part of the process, had to turn in a brief or a summary on our position and then we’ll be presenting that as part of this today,” said SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch. “Today is starting (negotiations) off and then we’ll go from there.”

The roughly 400 rail workers — including members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – left their jobs for one day on June 14. Workers quickly returned after President Barack Obama appointed a Presidential Emergency Board, per a request from Gov. Tom Corbett, to try and settle the dispute.

The Presidential Emergency Board, brought in to bridge the demands between the unions and SEPTA, will make a recommendation on how the contracts should be handled on July 14.

But whatever recommendation, the unions and SEPTA are not forced to accept it. Essentially, Obama’s order put the rail workers back to work, and in the meantime, brought together a team of skilled negotiators to try and figure out a resolution.

Obama’s order prevents rail workers for striking for 240 days. If a resolution isn’t met within that timeframe, another strike is possible in February 2015.

The 400 workers are asking for pay increases, retroactive pay to the end of their last contract in 2010 and an increase in pension contributions from SEPTA.

SEPTA officials claim the demands are unreasonable.

Both BLET Division 71 and IBEW Local 744 have not yet responded to requests for comment.

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