Union a step closer to strike if talks fail; SEPTA responds

The current contract expires midnight on Oct. 31.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- SEPTA transit union leaders are asking members to meet Sunday to vote to give them permission to call a strike, if needed.

The union posted to its website that the meeting is now scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Union Hall on S. Columbus Blvd.

Willie Brown, president of the Transport Worker Union Local 234, initially said Wednesday that membership should be on standby for a meeting to be called. The union later released information if significant progress in bargaining is not made this week a strike vote may be called for Sunday.

The union has been at odds with SEPTA over a number of issues as they work to negotiate a contract, which expires at midnight Oct. 31.

If SEPTA workers decide to strike, they likely wouldn't walk off the job until after the contract expires.

Brown said the union is demanding higher wages and that they want them to be more comparable to the rest of the region.

RELATED: What a possible SEPTA strike could mean for Philly schools

He also said they're pushing for changes to parental leave and will push for compensation for families of those who lose their lives to the coronavirus. Brown says they also want a safer workplace.

"We're not trying to be greedy, we're not trying to break the bank, we're not trying to be unreasonable, but these are human rights issues," Brown said. "These are issues we need to keep us and our families safe, and things we're demanding that SEPTA comes to the table and negotiate over."

If the more than 5,000 SEPTA workers strike, thousands of students who use SEPTA to get to and from school would be affected.

SEPTA released a statement reading in part, "We have to find a way to provide fair wages and benefits to employees, while also facing the challenges ahead."

School district officials are telling all parents to prepare for the district to switch to virtual learning if a strike happens.

SEPTA Statement on Contract Negotiations:

"SEPTA is committed to negotiating in good faith with TWU Local 234 on a new contract that is fair and financially responsible. We are hopeful that an agreement can be reached without any service disruptions.

"While federal COVID relief dollars are providing vital funds to stabilize operations during this ongoing crisis, these are temporary resources. SEPTA continues to lose approximately $1 million a day in revenues due to sharp declines in ridership, and with more employers embracing telework as we move into recovery, we know that ridership will not return to where it was in February 2020. We have to find a way to provide fair wages and benefits to employees, while also facing the challenges ahead. That's why SEPTA has presented two paths to TWU leadership: a shorter-term deal that provides wage increases, a pandemic payment and other benefits, and a longer-term proposal that reflects future uncertainties. We look forward to reaching agreement on a new contract that provides stability for both our employees and the customers who rely on us every day."
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