PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Contract negotiations between SEPTA and the union representing Transit Police have stalled for a second day. Officers, however, remained on the job and off the picket line.
SEPTA and union negotiators met Sunday but could not reach a deal, so the midnight deadline to reach an agreement came and went.
“SEPTA negotiators wanted to continue meeting through [Sunday night] and remain available around the clock,” said SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch.
Negotiations resumed Monday at 10 a.m. and were put on pause around 8 p.m. before union Vice President Troy Parham said a shorter-term contract was proposed.
“As long as the talks are going well, we'll keep talking," Parham said. "You know, we're not going to give them a deadline. As long as they seem to be bargaining in good faith, as long as they keep that up, then we'll keep talking.”
Negotiations will continue Tuesday at 11 a.m.
SEPTA said the goal is to reach a deal that is fair to transit officers while also taking funding challenges and a “looming fiscal cliff” into consideration. The contract offer includes a 13% increase over three years, which the agency said is in line with what other frontline worker unions have agreed to.
Also, to address the staffing shortage, there is a $3,000 signing bonus for new cops and a $2,500 retention bonus for officers eligible to retire.
However, the Fraternal Order of Transit Police Lodge 109 said there is a “disconnect” between what SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards is saying the offer is versus what is actually in the offer. The union made a formal request on Monday that Richards meet with them directly.
“We believe that her direct involvement will be crucial in helping us to achieve our goal of resolving our contract dispute without any disruption or work stoppage,” the union said in a statement.
“We aren’t asking for the moon,” said union President Omari Bervine. “We’re asking for the exact same type of financial considerations and benefit improvements that were given to the previous union employees that received their contract just a few weeks ago.”
He said they have had trouble not just recruiting officers but retaining them.
“Our core issue is that we simply do not have the manpower,” he added. “We just don’t have officers here to keep our passengers safe and, tragically, as you’ve seen, not even our employees safe.”
Just last month, a SEPTA bus driver was shot and killed on a route in Germantown.
Bervine said SEPTA officers are “routinely leaving for better-paying jobs” with other forces in the region, including Philadelphia, Temple and Amtrak police departments.
“When you’re one of the lowest-paying police departments in the region, it’s going to be really hard for you to hang onto your cops,” he said.
“Nobody wants to strike, especially police officers. It’s just counter to everything that we think and do.”
If a strike were to happen, SEPTA said service would not be impacted as supervisors would continue to patrol, local departments like Philadelphia police would step in, and private security firms would be used.