Union President: SEPTA Negotiators 'Close' to Deal

Negotiations between SEPTA and TWU Local 234 are coming down to the wire. The union president is optimistic a deal will be reached, but passengers are preparing for the worst.

Last-minute contract negotiations between Philadelphia's transit system and the union representing thousands of workers ended Friday without a deal in place.
 
Officials from the SEPTA and Transport Workers Union Local 234 met Friday at the Cira Centre in West Philly. The groups began bargaining at 11 a.m., but did not finalize a contract agreement by the time they wrapped up around 6 p.m.

"We're very close," said Willie Brown, president of the TWU Local 234, which represents the largest portion of unionized employees working within city limits. "I expect to get a deal done."

When asked if SEPTA riders should be prepared for a strike Monday, Brown said, "I don't have a crystal ball. I'm saying we're very close and we'll do the best we can to get a deal done."

Union President Optimistic About SEPTA Contracts

[PHI] Union President Optimistic About SEPTA Contracts
NBC10's George Spencer talks to union president Willie Brown about the SEPTA contracts and the possibility of a strike.

SEPTA officials have already made at least one major concession during the talks. The transit authority confirmed it wanted the term of the contract to last four or five years, but it agreed to the union's preferred 2-year deal.

Sticking points in the negotiations include wages, health care and the pension system. However union officials have indicated the pension system will stay intact.

A separate union, the UTU Local 1594, is in discussing a new contract with SEPTA officials separately.

When the TWU Local 234 went on strike in the past, the UTU Local 1594 followed suit.

SEPTA officials say they have a strike contingency plan in place, but they will not release it unless a strike is imminent. Several local businesses, univeristies and the Philadelphia School District are also developing their own backup plans in case a strike occurs.
 
Contracts covering three SEPTA divisions expired within the past three weeks.
 
SEPTA is the nation's sixth-largest transit operator with an annual ridership of about 337 million.