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November 22, 2023

SEPTA Transit Police pause plans to go on strike until next month, union leaders say

FOTP Lodge 109 says officers will stay on the job until Dec. 13, when they will vote on whether to accept the transit authority's latest contract offer

Transportation SEPTA
SEPTA-transit-police-strike-averted-11222023.png THOM CARROLL/for PhillyVoice

SEPTA transit police union officials put their plans to strike on hold Wednesday, saying members will vote on whether or not to accept the transit authority's latest contract proposal on Dec. 13.

SEPTA Transit Police will stay on the job, at least for now. Members of the Fraternal Order of Transit Police Lodge 109, the union that represents 175 SEPTA transit police officers, agreed to pause plans for a potential strike until at Dec. 13, union officials said on Wednesday.

At that time, union members will meet to vote on whether to accept SEPTA management's latest contract offer or go on strike, according to a statement from FOTP Lodge 109. If the union's members do not ratify the contract leaders said its officers will go on strike immediately. Members of police union had voted to authorize a strike in early October.

SEPTA Transit Police officers could have walked off the job Monday morning, after the union's deadline for a new contract agreement passed. SEPTA Transit Police have been working without a contract since March.

"After discussions this morning with the 11 members of the FOTP board, we've decided to hit pause on a strike for now," FOTP Lodge 109 president and SEPTA patrol officer Omari Bervine said in a statement.

During the pause period, union officials said they will prepare an "ability-to-pay" economic analysis analyzing SEPTA's latest contract offer and comparing it to the one recently ratified by TWU Local 234. That report will be shared with union members and presented SEPTA management, union officials said.

Last month, Transport Workers Union Local 234, which represents about 5,000 SEPTA employees, threatened to strike amid that unions stalled negotiations. SEPTA and TWU 234 reached a deal in late October, narrowly avoiding a transit strike.

The transit police union is asking SEPTA management for pay increases, better benefits and incentives to recruit and retain officers to the force. SEPTA's previous offer included a 13% pay increase over three years, a $3,000 signing bonus and improved health and retirement benefits.

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