As engineers reach tentative deal, talks continue with largest SEPTA union

    After five years of talks, the engineers who operate SEPTA’s regional rail trains have a tentative deal with the transit agency. Meanwhile, further talks are scheduled with 5,000 other workers who drive SEPTA buses, trolleys and subways.

    Representing 200 members, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said Monday that SEPTA has agreed to recommendations made by an emergency board appointed by President Barack Obama.

    “There was a recommendation for an additional payment to the locomotive engineers to maintain the historical wage relationship that the locomotive engineers have with the conductors,” said union vice president Steven Bruno.

    In a statement late Monday, SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said the proposed five-year agreement covers July 15, 2010, to  July 14, 2015.

    The BLET members will receive a $1,250 lump sum signing bonus and compensation that includes an 11.5 percent wage increase —  8.5 percent immediately upon contract ratification and an additional 3 percent in April 2015.

    According to the union, all raises in the five-year contract add up to 13.3 percent.

    As it’s reached a tentative agreement with the engineers, SEPTA has set more talks this week in hopes of averting a walkout by members of the Transport Workers Union.

    Union officials say the key sticking points are pensions, health care concessions and the handling of grievances.

    The union, which represents about 5,000 SEPTA employees, has been without a contract since March.

    A strike is possible unless SEPTA agrees to a short-term contract, said union president Willie Brown. He said his side is doing its best to prevent a walkout.

    “It is very possible,” Brown said. “The ironic thing is … I think it’s more about egos than economics and that’s never good for negotiations.”

    SEPTA is hoping for the best from this week’s negotiating sessions, Williams said.

    “Face-to-face negotiations are the best way to talk about the issues and see where each side stands,” she said.

    Despite their tentative deal, the engineers union still has some issues with SEPTA, but Bruno said those can be addressed outside contract negotiations.

    “There are excessively long days at work; there’s interrupted work schedules. SEPTA has not been able to maintain adequate staffing to address these concerns,” he said. “They have been unable to address these matters in a substantive way … it has plagued them for years.”

    The engineers went on a one-day strike this summer.

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