Short time after reaching an agreement that cleared the threat of a shutdown, operators of suburban SEPTA buses, trolleys and the Norristown High Speed Line are again considering a strike against the transit agency later this week, a top official of the union said Monday.
If workers do approve a strike, it could start as early as Friday morning as the current contract ends Thursday.
Bruce Cheatham, President of United Transportation Union Local 1594 said members have concerns about long hours due to operator shortages. Cheatham explained that operators can be drafted to fill overtime shifts if there are no volunteers, and many work seven days in a row.
According to a report by Thomas Fitzgerald from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the possible strike is announced after SEPTA and its largest union, Transport Workers Union Local 234, reached agreement Oct. 29 on a new, two-year contract. The deal avoided a strike that would have shut down transit on city buses, trolleys and subways.
UTU’s contract is expiring at 12:01 a.m. Friday. In case an agreement or contract extension cannot be reached, members may vote as soon as Monday to authorize a strike.
“Negotiations are ongoing, and we’re optimistic an agreement can be reached without a strike,” SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said. “We’re working toward a contract that’s fair to employees and financially responsible for the authority’s bottom line.”
Under the agreement reached by SEPTA and Transport Workers Local 234, workers will get 3% annual raises in each of the two years of the contract, as well as a one-time pandemic hazard bonus of one dollar for each hour worked between March 15, 2020, and March 15 this year, to a maximum of $2,200. They also won paid parental leave and the right for pregnant members to take leave under the disability insurance plan instead of using sick days.