SEPTA Drivers Demand Pay Increase, Citing Exposure Dangers

Talks between the union representing many of the transit agency's frontline workers and SEPTA management continued Wednesday after a tensions flared earlier in the week

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SEPTA bus driver Zack Chapman says he has had to fend for himself when it comes to protective gear like gloves and face masks.

"The authority is not providing us with any masks at all. None whatsoever," Chapman told NBC10 on Wednesday. "If we have to get masks, we have to get them on our own."

SEPTA workers like Chapman and his union have grown increasingly frustrated, they say, with the lack of attention to employees' safety from the top of the transit agency.

The Transit Workers of America Local 234, which is the largest union of SEPTA employees, was scheduled to hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon to air some of its concerns.

But SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards made a surprise appearance at the union's headquarters, and after some closed-door discussions, the press conference was cancelled.

Talks are continuing between the union and SEPTA management.

"We are going to listen and hear their concerns. That is why we are here," Richards said. "We all have to work together, be in this together, and get through this extraordinary circumstance."

Ridership on SEPTA has dwindled to nearly non-existent for much of the transit system.

One concession made this week is to allow bus passengers to get on at the rear of the bus.

Changes are in place Wednesday that are aimed at limiting interactions between SEPTA workers and riders. There are also now rider limits on buses, trolleys and the Norristown High Speed Line. NBC10's Miguel Martinez-Valle reports.

SEPTA officials also said Wednesday that they have protective gear like masks and gloves, and are working to get them to all drivers and conductors working in passenger-facing jobs.

Union officials said they are still demanding increased hourly wages as hazard pay, but there were no new developments as of Wednesday evening.

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