SEPTA talks end for now without strike

June 12, 2008 10:11:33 PM PDT
No strike so far in the SEPTA talks. SEPTA officers remain on the job, but both sides describe negotiations as contentious and so far unproductive.

Contract negotiations broke off around 10:00 p.m. and both sides are expected back at the table on Friday.

"We've made two offers, SEPTA has made zero counter proposals," Anthony Ingargiola of the SEPTA Police Union said.

"We think we we're very close and then they come back with a proposal at 9:00 at night that is entirely different and very expensive and expect us to immediately produce an accountant who's going to do this throughout the night," Richard Maloney of SEPTA said.

Neither side would get into specifics.

Shortly before noon Philadelphia City Council urged both the union and SEPTA leaders to get back to bargaining to prevent a strike. Talks started shortly thereafter and just after 2:45 p.m. officials came out from the talks to tell reporters that transit police had just completed a shift and change and they would remain on the job as talks continued.

About 200 members of the Fraternal Order of Transit Police work the buses, trains and subways.

SEPTA and its transit union have been at odds for 30 months, with the big issue being pay.

Right now, a SEPTA officer starts at just under $31,000, a city rookie starts at more than $38,000.

The SEPTA union wants equal pay, a 25 percent raise, and SEPTA has proposed 3 percent raises instead. Three times now, union members have voted down those proposals.

Earlier this week a union official urged riders to stay off SEPTA in an event of a strike saying their safety was in jeopardy.

The mayor and SEPTA blasted the remark as reckless and akin to shouting fire in a crowded theater.

Should there be a strike, SEPTA said it would provide security using a coalition of police commanders, city police and security guards.

Earlier this year, there were several serious attacks on subway riders. The one that generated the most headlines: the beating that led to the death of Starbucks worker Sean Conroy.

The FOTP wants binding arbitration. SEPTA says there's already been a fact-finding report by a state mediator and the union wouldn't agree to those findings, so binding arbitration would be a waste of time.