The union that represents SEPTA employees, Transport Workers United (TWU) Local 234 SEPTA announced they have reached an agreement with the agency about the worker’s safety conditions.
TWU said in a release that the union “has been fighting for enhanced safety measures to protect the health and well-being “of its workers and riding public. Finally, this agreement resulted in a number of improvements, including regular COVID-19 testing employees and temperature checks.
SEPTA union president Willie Brown said the authority is moving in the right direction with testing, but the agreement itself is not a big step.
“We did something that we could live with,” Brown said. “And if they carry through the actions we agreed to then we should be able to survive this thing.”
On the other side, Andrew Busch confirmed the agreement with the union and said it is in the process of acquiring the necessary equipment and refining details of the new protocols.
The agreement between SEPTA management and TWU came after Mayor Jim Kenney asked union president Willie Brown to hold off on the job action planned for last Thursday.
In addition to the testing procedures, SEPTA agreed to institute a more rigorous cleaning schedule, requiring workers to wipe down vehicles, equipment and facilities’ surfaces with disinfectant every two hours. SEPTA facilities where multiple workers have tested positive for COVID-19 are being sterilized as well.
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SEPTA also relaxed the rules governing sick leave and benefits, making it easier for workers to stay home as needed without disciplinary action. Those who test positive for the novel coronavirus and those they’ve been in contact with will receive full pay. High-risk employees are now permitted to take sick leave even if they are not sick.
Busch said SEPTA and the union remain in talks about death benefits for the families of fallen employees.
Positive coronavirus cases among SEPTA workers have passed 220 and the authority suffered its fifth fatality this week with the death of Yolanda Woodberry, a bus operator out of Frankford depot. Woodberry worked for SEPTA for 17 years.