On the fifth day of the SEPTA strike, the city of Philadelphia collectively holds its breath.
Five days with no city buses, no trolleys and no subways. Most pray for a resolution as we head to the weekend, and while it’s likely the Union do as well, that doesn’t mean they won’t hold their ground.
The most recent proposal offered by SEPTA to the striking members of Transport Workers Union Local 234 posits an improvement to Union pension, an average salary bump (from $67,000 to $76,000 over the deal’s lifetime), but also a steep rise in monthly healthcare payments (from $46 to $146). Septa has also stated that additional changes to the plan will be enacted, but have yet to comment further.
There’s yet to have been any word if the Union will offer a counter proposal.
To complicate things, with the election looming, SEPTA has urged Union president Willie Brown to suspend the strike for election day to help citizens get to the poll. Brown, possibly hoping to use this as leverage, says the Union will do no such things. Brown also has stated that although SEPTA claims negotiations have been smooth, he believes SEPTA delayed talks for months prior to the contracts’ expiration.
In a statement to Action News, Brown said, “Make no mistake, if we had accepted their terms prior to the strike deadline our members would have taken home less in their paychecks next year than they earn today.”
It’s believed that negotiations at this stage that working conditions are just as much of a concern as salary and benefits. Any deal will have to come within SEPTA’s budget constraints, which some believe to be a key contributor in the deals’ delay.