‘We need National Guard here’: Safety at forefront after bus driver killed as SEPTA strike looms

Negotiations continue Friday in hopes of a deal that would end the threat of a SEPTA strike that could happen on Wednesday.

This story originally appeared on 6abc.

Negotiations continue Friday in hopes of a deal that would end the threat of a SEPTA strike that could happen on Wednesday. Both sides have been negotiating since July and now, after the killing of a bus driver, safety and security are back in the forefront.

A tribute is now on full display, honoring the life of 48-year-old Bernard Gribbin from Abington, Pennsylvania. The 12-year employee of the transit authority and a U.S. Army veteran was driving a Route 23 bus Thursday when he was shot and killed in Philadelphia’s Germantown.

Chopper 6 was above as police took the woman believed to have pulled the trigger into custody. A motive is still not yet known.

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Now, safety remains a big concern for other transit workers who are still coming to terms with what happened, as they are in the midst of tense contract talks.

SEPTA‘s staff and leadership are shaken by this.

“Just really no words. When I think of the worst thing that could happen to our SEPTA team, this is it. This is the absolute worst,” said SEPTA CEO Leslie Richards.

“We’re all aware of how dangerous it is to be a driver here. We’re with this family 100%,” added Pat Deon, a SEPTA board chairman.

A big question is, what happens now? SEPTA has said the transit system has hired more police and has strong incoming recruiting classes, but is limited financially.

It remains to be seen how funding will be allocated to other areas of concern, such as raises and benefits, if SEPTA ends up shifting more money toward safety.

The president of SEPTA’s largest union, Transport Worker Union 234, said they’ve asked the governor to bring in the National Guard. Action News spoke with him during a break from contract negotiations earlier this week before the fatal shooting.

“We are at the point where we need National Guard here,” said Brian Pollitt, president of TWU 234. “I’ve been with SEPTA for 33 years and I’ve never seen it this bad. The raping, the assaults, the robbery, the maliciousness that’s going on our El’s, our subways and our buses. It’s atrocious.”

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SEPTA installed Plexiglas partitions around drivers during the pandemic after requests. Now, some are asking for bulletproof glass to be installed for protection.

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