Passenger Rail News

Negotiations continue at SEPTA

Contract negotiations continue on SEPTA with General Chairman Richard Dixon confronting a long history of pattern bargaining with a carrier having an anti-labor culture. He likens that culture to "that of some kind of monster with SEPTA being the king of monsters."

"The Transport Workers Union, Local 234 with 5,000 members, has historically set the wage and health benefits pattern for contracts," Dixon said. "There are 15 unions representing bargaining unit employees for SEPTA's City Transit Division, Suburban Transit Division, Frontier Division and Railroad Division. Being the largest union on the property, the wage and benefit agreement reached by the TWU Local 234 establishes the pattern that is ultimately negotiated with the other unions in each round of negotiations. This has always been SEPTA's position regarding pattern bargaining.

"In November 2005, the TWU went on strike for one week before reaching a four-year deal. Now, we want the same deal and the carrier is unwilling to give it to us. The culture within SEPTA's management is hard core and dictating, in an attempt to get everything their way."

The SEPTA General Committee is also pushing for dedicated funding for mass transit throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

"Pennsylvania is one of the larger states with large mass transit systems (SEPTA in Philadelphia and Port Authority Transit in Pittsburgh) and has never had a dedicated source of funding for its transit systems," Dixon said.

Pa. Governor Edward Rendell is pushing for it also and last year diverted approximately $214 million from state highway funding to mass transit systems in order to cover deficits.

Security is still a key issue for SEPTA employees and passengers.

"We have been working with the National Division and the BLET Pennsylvania State Legislative Board on (rail security) for several years," Dixon said. "Since 9/11 and the incidents in Madrid and London, this has become a vital issue for our members."

The age and condition of SEPTA's equipment is a concern for General Chairman Dixon.

SEPTA is in the process of acquiring 104 new railcars to replace some of its aging equipment. The carrier has approximately 305 electric multiple unit cars, dating from 1960s and 1970s, and 45 push/pull coaches hauled by eight electric locomotives, most dated 1987. SEPTA has had a steady increase in ridership over the past decade with many of the far outlying communities wanting expansion of the commuter railroad.

"With the age, condition and demand on our current fleet of equipment, the arrival of new cars was needed yesterday," Dixon said.


© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen