Transit cops again threaten SEPTA with strike approval

Four years after a brief strike, SEPTA and the union representing transit police are again at a stalemate regarding a new contract.

The deal for the Fraternal Order of Transit Police, which represents 220 officers, expired last March. Despite a fact-finding report in November from the state Department of Labor and Industry aimed at helping the two sides resolve their differences, no deal has been reached.

Transit police blame SEPTA for rejecting the fact-finder’s report and opposing binding arbitration. The group has authorized a strike, but its president said there are no plans to hit the picket line before a meeting next month.

“We’re very mindful that people go on our system every day, and we want the public to be as safe as possible,” said union president Richard Neal Jr., “but when the party’s not willing to negotiate in good faith and agree to a settlement, we may be forced to take the ultimate step and go out on strike.”

In 2008, transit police walked off the job for nine hours before elected officials stepped in to broker a four-year deal, Neal said. Wages and benefits remain the biggest sticking points in a proposed five-year contract, he added.

SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said, “The fact-finder’s report provided for allowances that are outside our pattern, allowances that other SEPTA employees do not receive.” These are namely an increase in meal allowances and night differential.

Yet, Williams said SEPTA negotiators are optimistic that they can reach a deal because the groups are “not that far apart” on the unresolved issues.

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