By Matt Rivers
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —The 5,000 or so SEPTA employees represented by local 234 at their headquarters could go on strike as early as Monday.READ MORE: City Invests Billions Of Dollars Into Navy Yard Expansion, Hoping For Economic Expansion
But leaders from both sides say they don’t want that and so tonight they’re sitting down for informal negotiations, trying to hash out a new contract.
Progress is hard to come by in these negotiations, the two sides still far apart just days before the deadline.
On Sunday night, the last of SEPTA’s contracts with TWU local 234 runs out. That means that come Monday all SEPTA city employees, as well as employees working along some bus routes in Montgomery and Bucks Counties, will now be without a contract. And no contract means that a strike is possible, stopping service along the Broad Street Subway and the El, city buses, and some bus routes in Montgomery and Bucks Counties.
“It would make me feel upset, you know, sick to my stomach. I just don’t understand what the problem is.”
Union officials say SEPTA is asking for too much. No pension plans for new employees and increased employee contributions to healthcare have been sticking points. They say they’d agree to a two year deal, but SEPTA wants five.
The union has also proposed binding arbitration, something SEPTA won’t agree to.READ MORE: Mayor Kenney Signs Bill To Lower City's Wage Tax, Giving Very Small Boost To Paychecks
The agency says it’s negotiating in good faith, but can only do so much. For Valerie Jones and her grandchildren, the lack of progress is worrisome.
“They have appointments, I have appointments, it’s going to be very hard. Yeah I’m nervous about it.”
If a strike does happen, it would take away the only form of transportation for thousands in Philadelphia.
Rodney Banks, a SEPTA rider, says, “If you had leaders from both sides at the table right here, what would you say to them. I would say come on y’all get it together. Get something done.”
This strike will not affect SEPTA’s regional rail lines. Those employees are engaged in separate negotiations.
SEPTA will release a strike contingency plan tomorrow in case the talks over the coming days fail to produce a new contract.MORE NEWS: Phillies' Bryce Harper To Have Thumb Surgery Wednesday, Team Hopes He'll Return This Season