SEPTA 2021 Strike Update: TWU Reaches Contractual Agreement

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SEPTA and its largest union reached a tentative deal on a new contract, averting a damaging strike that would have shut down Philadelphia’s transit system as it struggles to recover from a sharp drop in ridership caused by the pandemic.

For the region, the deal immediately removes the headache of an extra-congested Monday trip to work and a disruption to Philadelphia’s public schools, where 60,000 students and about 20,000 teachers and staff depend on public transport.

Members of Transportation Workers Local 234 will receive annual increases of 3% in each of the two years of the contract, as well as a one-time pandemic risk premium of one dollar for each hour worked between March 15 2020 and March 15 of this year. , up to a maximum of $ 2,200. They also got paid parental leave as part of the deal.

“I am very happy that we were able to come to an agreement without a strike,” said Willie Brown, president of TWU Local 234. “Our members are critical workers moving to Philadelphia who have risked their lives putting their own families at risk during this pandemic.”

The union and the transport company announced the deal in separate statements around 7:30 a.m. Friday.

The contract is “fair to our employees and fiscally responsible for SEPTA,” Chairman of the Board Pasquale T. Deon Sr. said in a statement.

Then the contract must be ratified by the union members and formally approved by the SEPTA board of directors. A TWU ratification vote is scheduled for November 5.

A deal was reached on Thursday evening after several days of intensive negotiation sessions at a hotel in the old town, interspersed with more informal discussions and exchanges on the proposed language. The existing pact was scheduled to expire at 12:01 am on November 1.

TWU got a lot of what they wanted, but not everything.

The union had requested a four-year contract with salary increases and a retroactive pandemic risk bonus. He failed to secure an increase in survivor benefits for the families of the 11 SEPTA frontline workers who died of COVID-19, which became an emotional rallying point for TWU members ahead of an authorization vote strike last Sunday.

Transport authority negotiators have offered a two-year contract with a pay rise and pandemic payment or a four-year deal tying the pay increases to SEPTA’s ability to pay them. With ridership not yet fully rebounding from its pandemic nadir and an unclear picture of the direction of commuting and public transport use patterns, the agency said it could not afford to guarantee salary increases so far into the future.

“It was a tough time negotiating a contract,” Brown said. “SEPTA faces unprecedented challenges. And, without a doubt, the solidarity of our members has been the key factor. The talks became much more productive after the unanimous strike vote last Sunday.

Union members have also demanded better security of the SEPTA system, given high-profile crimes, abuse and assaults against members, some from passengers frustrated by federal mask requirements in transit. The issue was not resolved in the deal, sources familiar with the matter said.

System-wide, ridership is at 47% of pre-pandemic levels, and SEPTA says it continues to lose $ 1 million a day. It received $ 1.5 billion in operating funds from three federal pandemic relief payments – likely enough, officials say, to last until 2023. Future state funding is uncertain; the legislature failed to act to replace an expiring formula for funding public transit. SEPTA does not have the authority to levy taxes in its five-county territory, unlike many transit agencies in the United States.

This story is developing and will be updated.


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