SEPTA reaches tentative deal with Transport Workers Union to avert strike

The full details of the agreement will be released after both boards ratify the contract.

Saturday, October 28, 2023
SEPTA reaches tentative deal with union to avert strike
SEPTA reaches tentative deal with Transport Workers Union to avert strike

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- SEPTA and its largest workers union announced Friday they have reached a tentative one-year deal, avoiding a potential strike that would have impacted more than half a million Philadelphians.

"As I told you guys before, we wanted to lock in to try to reach a tentative agreement without striking, we did that today," said TWU Local 234 President Brian Pollitt during a press conference.

The tentative agreement include the following:

  • Across the board wage increases
  • Increases in pay for new and recently hired operators
  • A signing bonus for all active union members
  • Retention bonuses to incentivize employees eligible to retire to remain on the job for at least another year
  • An increase in the pension for those that retire in the next year and a doubling of the long-neglected disability pension benefit.

Further details will be released after both boards ratify the contract on November 10.

Transport Workers Union Local 234's current contract was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on October 31. A strike was authorized to happen on Wednesday, November 1, if a deal wasn't reached.

TWU Local 234 is the largest bargaining union in SEPTA and represents 5,000 employees.

SEPTA, Transport Workers Union hold news conference on new tentative deal on October 27, 2023.

Concerns about safety

The new deal comes just a day after a bus driver was killed while on the job.

Bernard Gribbin, 48, from Abington, Pennsylvania, was shot and killed Thursday while driving a Route 23 bus in the city's Germantown section. He was a 12-year employee of the transit agency.

Glenn Gustafson, who was a friend of the victim and a fellow Army veteran, says it was Gribbin's first day back after a battle with pneumonia.

"It was shocking to say the least. The man has been shot at in combat zones, and all he was doing was driving a bus and this happens. It's tragedy with no words," said Gustafson.

Gribbin is being remembered as veteran who proudly served his country and community.

"Selfless service his whole life. Loved to help people. That was him. That's what he did. That's what he lived for," added Gustafson.

Both SEPTA and union leaders say safety is one issue not addressed in the contract but it will continue to be discussed.

After Gribbin's murder, in the midst of negotiations, both sides said they were motivated to get a deal done.

"We look forward to working closely with TWU moving forward on safety and security. If anything was learned over the last day and a half, is that we want to work together closer than ever to make sure that everybody is safe-- all employees, all riders," said SEPTA CEO Leslie Richards.

Roughly 650,000 Philadelphians ride SEPTA every day. A strike would have shut down bus, train and trolley service around the city, and thousands of Philadelphia students would have been impacted as well.

Leadership says it was determined to avoid that strike to continue service without disruption.

"Strike preparations can stop. The schools don't have to worry about kids getting to school next week," said Richards.

SEPTA says part of the reason this is only a one-year deal is because of an uncertain financial future. Leaders have alluded to a financial cliff approaching next spring. Still, Richards said SEPTA wanted to get a deal done for the union that falls within the confines of what the transportation system can do financially.