Federal panel releases recommendations on SEPTA regional rail contract talks

Negotiations between SEPTA and two of its unions have entered a new phase with recommendations from a fact-finding panel appointed by President Obama.

The Presidential Emergency Board released its report Monday on resolving the long-standing labor dispute that led to a one-day strike last month.

Steve Bruno of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said the union’s still working to get members together in a room to discuss the panel’s report.

“Our local representatives are working full time as employees of SEPTA, and they’re not always available to talk on telephones while they’re operating their trains,” Bruno said Tuesday.

The other union involved in the negotiations is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 744. President Terry Gallagher did return a call requesting comment.

When the unions do meet, they’ll have a lot to talk about. The report opposes their demand for retroactive pay for the year the electrical workers and train operators have been working without a contract.

It also does not support their request for raises equivalent to the amount other SEPTA labor unions received in pension benefits.

While not binding, the board’s recommendations could have a big impact on negotiations, said David Crawford, president of eConsult Corporation.

“It will be a public recommendation that some disinterested party has said was a reasonable resolution. That will put pressure on both sides to move toward that solution,” he explained.

If negotiations still fail, SEPTA would not be able to impose terms nor can the union go on strike until at least mid-October, a SEPTA spokeswoman said.

Jerri Williams said the parties will need time to evaluate the board’s detailed suggestions.

“There are recommendations in there neither SEPTA or the union have ever discussed before,” she said.

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