Strike still looming: SEPTA continues negotiations to reach new deal with police

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
SEPTA continues negotiations in hopes of reaching new deal with police
SEPTA continues negotiations in hopes of reaching new deal with police

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Negotiations are still underway between SEPTA officials and the Fraternal Order of Transit Police.

SEPTA presented a counteroffer after its previous offer was rejected. The new deal offers SEPTA police a two-year deal with a 3% raise each year. Still, union reps say it's not enough for their workers.

"There are members where we are right now they don't like the deal that's on the table at all. And we're trying to get the negotiators something to sell them on," said Troy Parham, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Transit Police.

Previously, SEPTA offered transit police a three-year deal with a 13% raise, but union officials say that offer combined two deals in one, with a 7% increase in one year and 3% in each of the two additional years.

Parham said the fact that the offer was a combination of two offers in one made it not beneficial to transit police. They're satisfied with the new two-year deal with a 3% raise each year. The sticking points, though, are other financial issues like meal allowances and being paid for certification. Certification pay was part of the deal that SEPTA recently reached with the Transport Workers Union. Parham said his workers are closely comparing their offer to that deal.

"If they find one thing that's in TWU's deal that is not in theirs, then of course they're going to feel like they're not being treated equally," he said.

The transit police officers have been working without a contract for seven months. SEPTA says, that while finances are an issue, they're committed to continuing negotiations.

"We think that's the best way to move forward. To continue working continue negotiating and we're confident that if we do that we can arrive at a deal," said SEPTA Spokesperson Andrew Busch.

At stake, is a contract to keep transit police on the job. They'd authorized a strike that was set to start on Monday but chose, instead, to keep working perhaps because of one clause in the negotiations: a $3,000 sign-on bonus if there's no strike.

"The $3,000 signing bonus for all police officers is still on the table," said Busch.

The offer also includes a $2,500 retention bonus for officers who are already on the job as long as there is no strike.

SEPTA just negotiated a deal with bus drivers who were threatening to strike. On Tuesday, conductors and engineers also authorized a strike. It would be more difficult for that group to go on strike since they are governed by the federal Railway Labor Act, but a strike is still a possibility. Union reps say the fact that members authorized a strike should send a message.

"We don't want to strike. That's the last thing we want to do," said Donald Hill, General Chair of SEPTA Commuter Rail Engineers.

He says his group will be watching the negotiation with transit police closely as conductors and engineers are seeking better pensions, quicker advancement opportunities and more pay.

"We're the lowest-paid locomotive engineers in the nation," said Hill, adding the accusation that managers double-dip to make staff shortages work to their financial advantage.

"Managers come out and work our job and then pay themselves extra to come out and work our job, which is just unheard of anywhere else in the world," he said.

Before SEPTA can move on to negotiating with that group, they have to hammer out a deal with transit police as negotiations continue.

"Right now we're not close," said Parham.

Union officials say they're willing to keep negotiating through Thanksgiving weekend if it comes down to that.