SEPTA’s bus, subway and trolley operators could go on strike as soon as this weekend.
Transport Workers Local 234 president Willie Brown said at a news conference that Saturday is the earliest his members would hypothetically walk off the job, although Monday would be a more likely start date. He said he would give riders 24-hour notice if members were going to strike.
Brown stressed that he is hoping to avoid a strike and reach an agreement with SEPTA management. His members, who have been working under expired contract terms since March and April, voted Sunday to authorize a strike.
“When we strike over issues, it’s not we want to strike,” he said. “We have to strike.”
Pensions are a major sticking point between SEPTA management and Local 234. Brown said the current retirement benefits are “not equitable at all.”
“Our members put three times as much into the pension as management,” said Brown. “Management gets three times as much out as our members.”
Local 234 members contribute 3.5 percent of their pay before overtime to the pension fund.
Brown would not say what the chances are his union will be on strike on Election Day on Nov. 4. However, he said management and workers are currently as far apart as “California and Pennsylvania.”
SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams issued a brief statement following the union’s news conference: “SEPTA is pleased that TWU 234 has agreed to provide our riders 24-hours notice if they decide to strike. We, however, hope we can continue bargaining.”
Williams also said the union’s current pension contributions were all negotiated under previous contracts.
Labor negotiations are set to resume Tuesday.