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October 28, 2023

SEPTA and TWU Local 234 union members reach tentative deal, averting strike

The contract, which is expected to be ratified on Nov. 10, includes improved wages, bonuses, and better work conditions

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SEPTA Safety Trainings Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

SEPTA and TWU Local 234 reached a tentative deal for a new labor contract on Friday, preventing a strike that would disrupt transit service in Philadelphia.

SEPTA and the Transport Workers Union Local 234 have successfully negotiated a tentative agreement on a new contract, ensuring uninterrupted service, the authority announced Friday. The current deal was set to expire on Oct. 31, and the union voted to authorize a strike if an agreement was not reached. 

The agreement is pending ratification by TWU Local 234 members and approval by the SEPTA Board, which is expected to be confirmed at an upcoming board meeting. The ratification vote is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 10.

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SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. expressed his satisfaction that the sides were able to reach an agreement. 

The negotiations were centered on acknowledging the work of SEPTA's frontline employees while ensuring the agency's fiscal stability with the expiration of federal COVID relief funds coming next year, SEPTA said in a press release.

"There was an urgency to get this agreement in place, and I would like to thank the negotiating teams on both sides of the table for working around the clock to make it happen," SEPTA CEO Leslie Richards said in a statement. 

This one-year labor contract will expire in November 2024. The agreement includes a range of benefits such as across-the-board wage increases, enhanced pay for new and recently hired operators, signing bonuses for all active union members, and retention bonuses aimed at encouraging eligible employees to stay on for another year, according to TWU 234.

Provisions have also been made to increase the pension for those retiring in the next year and an adjustment to the disability pension benefit. The agreement also addresses critical work-related issues, such as limiting forced overtime, improving attendance, providing more opportunities for time off, and offering specialized training for union members to maintain SEPTA's zero-emission bus fleet.

While he was pleased that the deal was agreed upon, TWU Local 234 President Brian Pollitt said there is still work to be done. 

"It’s important to note that this one-year contract is essentially a work in progress. Many of our concerns related to safety and security will need to be addressed in later agreements," Pollitt said in a statement. 

SEPTA workers last went on strike in 2016, when buses, trolleys, and the city's two main subway lines stopped running for six days. Since 1971, workers for the transit authority have walked off the job at least 10 times, earning it the distinction as the transit agency most prone to striking, Billy Penn reported