SEPTA and union workers start new contract negotiations

phl_USE_SEPTA_Silverliner

SEPTA and the union that represents a majority of its workforce met Friday to discuss contract negotiations at a Center City hotel.

Representatives from the Transport Workers Union Local 234 and SEPTA officials met at the Sonesta Hotel, at 1800 Market St., in the morning and exchanged proposals for a new agreement between the transit agency and its approximately 5,000 union employees.

The deal — which covers a majority of SEPTA workers — expires at midnight on March 14.

“We want a fair deal for our members,” said Willie Brown, president of Local 234, in a statement. “Ridership is up, state funding is up, health care costs and fuel expenses have stabilized, the economy is improving; SEPTA is in a position to fairly compensate the workers that keep Philadelphia moving. We look forward to productive contract talks.”

In a statement, SEPTA said it “looks forward to productive and good faith negotiations” with the union president.

“We enter into the collective bargaining process focused on the importance of reaching a fair contract that balances the needs of our valued workforce for competitive pay and benefits with the importance of operating the transit system in the most efficient and cost effective way possible,” according to the statement. “We hope to finalize a contract in a timely manner that embodies sensible work rules, operational efficiency and flexibility, and a fiscally responsible budget – all of which will preserve the ‘good SEPTA jobs’ with competitive wages and benefits on which our union employees depend.”

The statement added that officials are “confident that with veteran, professional negotiators on both sides of the table, a contract can be reached that will benefit SEPTA, our union employees, our customers and the taxpayers.”

“While we are optimistic about the recently awarded transportation funding package,” it continued, “we must be mindful that transportation funding is designated for capital projects – bricks and mortar and wheels and steel – to preserve and improve the transit system for the region.

In November 2009, with the Philadelphia Phillies in the throes of the World Series, union workers threatened to strike before then-Gov. Ed Rendell sent the two sides back to the bargaining table.

Union workers did walk off their jobs hours after the Phillies beat the Yankees in Game 5 of the World Series, which was the final playoff game hosted at Citizens Bank Park.

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