PA: SEPTA Has Tentative Deal With One of Its Regional Rail Unions

Aug. 14--SEPTA has reached a tentative labor agreement with the union that represents about 215 Regional Rail electrical workers, officials for the transit agency said Wednesday.

The tentative deal must be ratified by the members of IBEW Local 744 and approved by SEPTA's board of directors.

No deal has been reached with Regional Rail locomotive engineers, however, so the possibility of a commuter rail strike remains.

Engineers could strike as early as Oct. 12, and the tentative deal "doesn't affect our negotiations," said Stephen Bruno, vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

SEPTA bus drivers, subway operators and mechanics represented by Transport Workers Union Local 234 also are working without a contract, so they could strike with little notice.

SEPTA's board will hold a special meeting Monday morning to authorize board chairman Pasquale "Pat" Deon Sr. to approve the deal, if the union members ratify it. That would allow the workers to get their raises before the next scheduled SEPTA board meeting at the end of September.

The terms of the tentative deal are similar to those offered earlier: an immediate 11.5 percent raise, or about $3 an hour to $29.50 an hour, on average. The electricians' last contract expired in 2009.

All workers would also get a $1,250 "signing bonus," as did the bus drivers' union in 2009; their contract sets the pattern for the 16 other SEPTA unions.

But the new five-year contract for the electrical workers would be outdated as soon as it is signed, as the five-year period covered by the negotiations expired June 30. So a new round of negotiations will start almost immediately, said SEPTA assistant general manager Francis Kelly.

Leaders of IBEW Local 744 could not be reached Wednesday evening.

A mediation board appointed by President Obama sided last month with SEPTA management on most of the issues in the long-running labor dispute with the Regional Rail workers.

The board said the railroad workers were not entitled to retroactive raises or an additional increase based on a pension boost received by the bus drivers' union.

Those two issues were at the heart of the dispute that led to a one-day strike in June by the 200 engineers and 215 electrical workers. The strike, which followed years of fruitless negotiations, ended June 15 after Obama appointed the emergency board.

The engineers are continuing to negotiate, in talks that Bruno described Wednesday as "tense."

"We're happy they [the electrical workers] have reached a conclusion . . . but I would say it's a nonevent for us."

Willie Brown, president of TWU Local 234, could not be reached Wednesday evening.

He has said previously the TWU's negotiations will not be affected by the Regional Rail talks.

pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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