No new strike is imminent yet, as the police and SEPTA have agreed to talk again in March. Union president Richard Neal Jr. said that he hoped a settlement could be reached soon, "but we might have no choice but to go out."
"Enough is enough," Neal said. "We'd love to resolve this, but if SEPTA backs us into a wall, we'll do what we have to do."
Police are working under terms of a contract that expired on April 1, 2011.
The starting salary for SEPTA police is $34,612 a year, and the top salary for the most-senior transit officers is $57,351.
Negotiators for SEPTA and the union conducted fitful negotiations last summer but were unable to come to terms. A state fact-finder was called in last fall and recommended a settlement giving police wage increases of about 11.5 percent over five years, in line with the pay increases in other recent SEPTA union contracts.
The police union, which had asked for 24 percent in wage hikes, said it was willing to accept the fact-finder's recommendations but that SEPTA is not.
SEPTA spokeswoman Jerria Williams said several nonwage recommendations by the fact-finder, including significant increases in meal and clothing allowances, would be higher than the pattern established by other SEPTA unions' contracts.
SEPTA is also opposed to the police union's effort to increase pensions for retired officers to 58 percent of an officer's final working pay, from the current 53.25 percent.
"We're still very optimistic that we'll be able to reach an agreement in the near future," Williams said. But she said "tentative plans" have been prepared in case of a strike, although she declined to provide details.
Neal said union members voted on Dec. 1 to authorize a strike, if union leaders decided it was necessary.
The first-ever strike by transit police was a one-day walkout on June 13, 2008.
A state mediator is now involved in the negotiations.
Contact staff reporter Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org