Federal panel backs SEPTA in union dispute

Posted: July 16, 2014

IN ITS REPORT filed yesterday, a board called by President Obama to end a years-long labor dispute sided with SEPTA on raises and pension-plan contributions - two major sticking points behind a one-day Regional Rail strike last month.

"We are pleased with the results of the report," said Jerri Williams, a SEPTA spokeswoman. "It's what we've been trying to explain in negotiations with the unions for a number of years."

The board recommends that the wage increases paid out to the members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers should be the same (11.5 percent) as those doled out in a 2010 contract with the Transport Workers Union, which represents SEPTA's bus drivers and subway operators.

Historically, that larger union sets the pattern for negotiations with all other labor groups, a fact the board pointed to in making its decision.

The board also shot down the idea of retroactive pay, stemming from the time the unions have worked without contracts - four and five years for BLET and IBEW, respectively.

Finally, the board found that the payment pattern set by the agreement with the Transport Workers Union doesn't call for additional pension-plan contributions for the other two unions, something both lobbied for during negotiations with SEPTA last month.

Steve Bruno, a spokesman for the BLET, said last night that he was still reviewing the full text of the report and had not yet discussed it with the other members of the union's administrative board.

Arthur Davidson, Bruno's counterpart at IBEW, also declined to comment.

Williams said no official date has been set for negotiations to resume.

"Once we've reviewed everything and made calculations, it'll be time for us to sit down again," she said. "We believe we can get to a settlement, and give raises to our employees that they are entitled to and deserve."

The board's recommendations are not binding, and the unions have the option to resume their Regional Rail strike in February, when Obama's executive order forming the board expires.

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