Negotiations are centered on two key issues: pensions, which the union says are underfunded, and concerns about health care and taxes stemming from the Affordable Care Act.
"We would like to get a fair contract, secure funding for pensions and make sure that health-care costs aren't passed on to members," said Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman for the union. "SEPTA's finances are in good shape; we are not asking a lot."
SEPTA officials said employee wages and benefits are the largest operating expense, accounting for 70 percent of the budget. SEPTA's fiscal year 2014 operating budget totals $1.28 billion.
"We hope that we are going to continue being able to negotiate and reach an agreement that will be beneficial to SEPTA, union employees, riders and taxpayers," SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said.
SEPTA asked for a three-month extension to continue negotiations, but TWU officials said a lengthy negotiation is not in the best interest of union members or riders.
"We're willing to go the extra mile to reach a fair agreement," Local 234 President Willie Brown said. "We're not willing to sign on to a lengthy contract extension or make hasty decisions having a long-term effect on our members' family finances."
There is a history of strikes by SEPTA's union workers. The last, a strike by city transit workers in 2009, lasted six days.
"Our goal is to get a good contract without disrupting service to the riding public, but at the end of the day SEPTA must be willing to do the same," said Brown.
As of yesterday, there was no set date for continued negotiations. Horwitz said union members received an extensive proposal from SEPTA that has to be carefully reviewed before they consider heading to the bargaining table with officials again.
Although SEPTA hopes to negotiate a new contract without a work stoppage, the agency has prepared a contingency plan suggesting alternative routes for passengers in the event of a strike.
For more information, visit septa.org/service/service-interruption/guide-2014.html.