Labor dispute gums up major SEPTA contract

The politically connected International Brother of Electrical Workers Local 98 asked the SEPTA Board Thursday to disqualify the Fairfield Electrical Co. as a subcontractor to Ansaldo STS USA Inc., which was to be awarded the contract to install a positive train control system at the meeting.

Positive train control is a safety measure meant to reduce crashes, and the federal government is requiring SEPTA have it installed along the length of its regional rail system by the end of 2015 or face stiff penalties.

Fairfield doesn’t use union workers, and Local 98 business representative Timothy E. Brown presented the board with a list of what Jeffrey Scarpello, regional head of the local electrical contractors’ trade group, called “serious allegations” regarding the company’s safety record and failure to pay prevailing wages.

Scarpello’s contractors use union labor.

In response to Local 98’s concerns, the SEPTA Board decided to continue to award the contract to Ansaldo as planned but asked staff to investigate Local 98’s claims before issuing a notice to proceed on the work.

In other news, the SEPTA Board elected a new vice chairman. James C. Schwartzman, an appointee of the state Senate minority leader, stepped down. He’s being replaced by Thomas E. Babcock, a Delaware County representative on the board.

Longtime chairman Pat Deon was re-elected.

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