During a phone conference with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Willie Brown, head of Transport Workers Union Local 234 said he would continue to seek to resolve the few issues regarding SEPTA’s two-year contract offer without having the membership go out on strike.
In a conference that lasted about 45 minutes, Brown emphatically said there are no immediate plans for a work stoppage. As of this report, no new negotiations have been scheduled, but no strike has been authorized.
“As I’ve said before, we will notify you before something like that happens. A strike is not in the immediate plans or future plans. We may have to go to court to resolve some of the issues, but as for a strike, we are not at that point yet.”
Brown also fired back at SEPTA management, saying the transportation authority has been putting out misinformation regarding negotiations over the past weekend. He said several roadblocks have been holding up further contract talks before an agreement can be reached and taken to the union membership.
“First, let me say that we made real progress last week. The agreement to do a two-year contract was a positive development,” Brown said. “But over the weekend and into this week, we have hit roadblocks that are not helpful.”
Brown said information requests regarding demographics and claims had been sent to SEPTA but haven’t been responded to. He said the information is especially important regarding the issue of medical benefits. In the last round of talks SEPTA was asking for a one percent increase in contribution to medical coverage from union members.
“SEPTA is for the most part self-insured. They are the only ones in possession of key data. We need to see the numbers to figure out whether their demand for a one percent charge to our members makes any sense. And whether cost savings can be accomplished in other ways. Their facts keep changing. They’re not SEPTA, they’re deceptive,” Brown said.
As of Monday a two-year contract offer was on the table which SEPTA officials said met union demands. The offer included 5 percent in wage increases over two years.
“A two year agreement wasn’t what we wanted because a longer contract is actually better for us in terms of long range planning and financial stability. The offer we put on the table has a 2 percent increase the first year and a 3 percent increase the second year and there’s no changes in pension benefits which was a sticking point.”