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SEPTA moves to provoke shutdown on Saturday

CLEVELAND, June 10 — The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has set in motion a process that is virtually certain to trigger a shutdown of commuter rail service in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, which could begin as early as 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, June 14, when the parties are free to engage in self-help under the Railway Labor Act.

In a June 7 letter addressed to all SEPTA locomotive engineers, the Carrier’s General Manager, Joseph M. Casey, announced that the Carrier will begin to implement its bargaining demands on Sunday, June 15.

In a June 10 letter to all active members employed by SEPTA, BLET National Division President Dennis R. Pierce pointed to SEPTA’s announced promulgation as “the latest attempt by the Carrier in its nearly 5-year effort to impose its will on SEPTA locomotive engineers, notwithstanding the best efforts of your elected leadership to conclude a fair and reasonable collective bargaining agreement on your behalf.”

Pierce’s letter detailed nearly five years of intransigence on the Carrier’s part, which — just within the past month — include rejection of a proffer of arbitration made by the National Mediation Board, denial of a request that the self-help deadline be extended by 10 days, and a refusal to bargain off-property with the two unions embroiled in the current contract dispute. Pierce further wrote:

“The Carrier’s letter baldly admits that its ‘wage increases are being put into effect in an effort to avoid another Presidential Emergency Board.’ The Carrier is afraid of a formal investigation of this dispute by an unbiased tribunal — such as an Arbitration Board or a Presidential Emergency Board — because such an investigation will document how it is trying to cheat its Locomotive Engineers. Your leadership has made it clear throughout the course of bargaining that the only fair settlement is one that rewards each Locomotive Engineer with the full value of the ‘pattern’ settlement between SEPTA and Transport Workers Union Local 234; nothing more, and certainly nothing less. However, the Carrier has obstructed at each and every step of the process by refusing to provide data regarding the economic enhancements to the TWU 234 pension plan and refusing to acknowledge that those enhancements have value that is part of the ‘pattern.’ The Carrier is compounding this bad faith bargaining, demanding that you be punished by denying you even the value of its self-serving definition of the ‘pattern’ for not accepting its dictates.”

Commenting on these latest developments, President Pierce said, “It is most unfortunate that the traveling public in the Philadelphia metropolitan area will be inconvenienced by SEPTA’s actions. If there is any step the Carrier has missed in forcing this shutdown, I can’t identify it.”

Consistent with the requirements of Brotherhood law, President Pierce and General Chairman R. G. Dixon have consulted and a system-wide strike has been authorized to begin at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Saturday, June 14, unless the White House establishes a Presidential Emergency Board prior to that time.

President Pierce’s letter to the SEPTA membership can be viewed/downloaded/printed here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

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