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November 20, 2023

SEPTA Transit Police poised to strike Monday afternoon as deadline passes for contract deal

The union wants raises and other benefits for its 175 officers; in the event of a strike, SEPTA expects to maintain service with outside departments patrolling the system

Transportation SEPTA
SEPTA-transit-police-strike-11202023.png THOM CARROLL/for PhillyVoice

SEPTA Transit Police were poised to go on strike Monday as contract negotiations with transit authority management slipped past its midnight deadline. Transit police union members are demanding bigger pay increases amid growing public safety concerns on SEPTA's subways and buses.

Barring any breakthroughs in contract negotiations, SEPTA Transit Police could be on strike as early as Monday afternoon.

Talks between the transit authority and Fraternal Order of Transit Police Lodge 109 continued over the weekend, but failed to produce a new contract by the union's deadline of midnight Sunday. SEPTA Transit Police officers have been working without a contract since March.

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FOTP Lodge 19 – the union that represents 175 SEPTA Transit Police officers – agreed to stay on the job through Monday morning as union officials and SEPTA management engaged in one more round of talks, 6ABC reported.

The transit police union voted to authorize a walkout last month, as Transport Workers Union Local 234, which represents about 5,000 SEPTA employees, threatened to strike amid stalled negotiations. SEPTA management and TWU 234 reached a deal in late October, narrowly avoiding a transit strike.

SEPTA Transit Police officers are seeking raises and incentives for officers to join and remain on the force. In its most recent offer, SEPTA management agreed to a 13% pay increase over three years, a $3,000 signing bonus and improved health and retirement benefits, according to 6ABC. Union leadership has said that it needs stronger compensation and benefits for officers in order to combat ongoing recruiting challenges and staff shortages.

Last year, transit police union leadership expressed frustration with what it described as "self-inflicted" recruitment challenges. In response, SEPTA reached a side agreement with the union in July 2022 to address this issue by increasing the starting pay of transit police officers by 25% in the hopes of making the department more competitive in recruiting new officers. 

Contract negotiations between SEPTA and FOTP Lodge 109 are unfolding against a backdrop of decreased ridership and growing concerns about public safety on the city's transit system. Less than two hours after contract negotiations ended on Sunday night, Philadelphia police responded to reports of gunshots at the SEPTA subway station at 15th and Market streets.

In the event of a transit police strike, SEPTA's routes and lines with be patrolled by the transportation authority's nonunion police supervisors, the Pennsylvania State Police and officers from the city and suburban police departments.