Negotiations Continue to Prevent SEPTA Strike

More negotiations took place on Monday to prevent a potential SEPTA strike.

Officials with SEPTA as well as its unions met at the Sheraton Hotel in Center City for a meeting that lasted nearly six hours.

The contract for the Transit Workers Union, SEPTA's largest, expired earlier in March. According to Transit Workers Union local president Willie Brown, SEPTA wants a five year contract with bonuses for the first two years and 1%, 2%, and 3% raises for the last three years. Brown also says SEPTA wants increased health care costs and changes to employee pension contributions.

SEPTA declined to discuss terms of contract negotiations publicly.

If the two sides don't come to an agreement, it could lead to the first transit strike in almost five years.

"I'm going to work as long as I can until you know, it comes to a point, when there's no reason to negotiate anymore, then I'll do what I have to do," Brown said.

The 4,700 members of Brown's TWU Local 234 have been working without a contract since the middle of March.

Brown said any strike would not take place until three remaining, smaller contracts expire later this week.

If the two sides do not reach a deal by the end of the week, the total number of SEPTA employees working without a contract would top 5,000.

While Brown argues SEPTA is in better financial shape than in years past, SEPTA Spokeswoman Jerri Williams said new money recently allocated by the state of Pennsylvania comes with dedicated purposes.

"That's just for infrastructure and new vehicles," Williams said. "We have the same amount of money that we've always had to pay for salary and benefits. There has been no increase other than somewhat of an increase because of higher ridership."

Williams said fares make up 40% of SEPTA's operating budget.  She said the two sides could come back to the table as early as this week.

There have been twelve separate transit strikes in Philadelphia since 1975. The most recent, lasting a week began in the early hours of Election Day of 2009.

A bill is currently in the statehouse that would prevent SEPTA from striking if an agreement is not reached. At this point however, the bill has not moved out of the House Committee. SEPTA's regional rail would also continue to operate in the event of a strike since it's bound by federal rules.

This story is reported through a newsgathering partnership between and

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