Tuesday, June 10, 2014

SEPTA braces for regional rail strike

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SEPTA management appears willing to endure a strike to its regional rail system, possibly beginning this Saturday, June 14, 2014, rather than delay such action until winter, when weather is more severe and system ridership is higher.

SEPTA chief labor relations officer Stephanie K. Deiger on Monday, June 9, alerted union leaders that SEPTA had sent letters to Regional Rail engineers and electrical workers, describing its intent to give them raises proposed by SEPTA effective next Sunday. The move is seen by labor as unilateral and provocative.

"We need to get an agreement now," SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey told local media Monday. "Seven thousand other SEPTA employees have already accepted this wage package, but these 400 [actually 430] are holding out."

But SEPTA's action "is probably going to mean a strike," according to Stephen Bruno, vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET).

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has indicated he would seek creation of a Presidential Emergency Board to mediate the dispute if a walkout occurs. That would delay a strike for up to 240 days.

Potential striking employees include 210 electrical workers, represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 744, and 220 engineers, represented by the BLET. SEPTA management is offering electrical workers a 11.5% raise beginning Sunday, and a 5% raise for engineers, bolstered by additional 3.5% raise on July 6.

"We see no reason to continue to delay granting these increases when most other SEPTA employees, including those on Regional Rail, have already received the same percentage increases," SEPTA management said.

SEPTA Regional Rail service includes 13 lines that cover five southeast Pennsylvania counties, as well as points in Delaware and New Jersey. Ridership in fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30, 2013, rose 2.2%, setting a regional rail ridership record. As of last April, FY14 ridership was 1.8% above FY13 levels through the comparable period. 

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