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What was agreed to in SEPTA’s new contract?

SEPTA union workers ratified their new contract this past weekend, which will stand for the next two years.

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SEPTA union members officially ratified a new two-year contract on Saturday, Nov. 6, effectively ending the threat of a worker strike for at least the next couple of years.

The Transport Workers Union Local 234 announced the ratification took place by a vote of 1,450 to 631, a better than 2-1 margin. 

The tentative agreement was reached on Oct. 29 after months of negotiations, averting a possible strike by the over 5,000-member union that would have impacted buses, trolleys, subways and elevated train services throughout the city. The previous contract, which was ratified and signed in 2016 following a six-day strike, was set to expire on Oct. 31.

The details of the new contract include:

  • A 3% wage increase each year
  • A pandemic hazard bonus of $1 for each hour worked between March 15, 2020 to March 15, 2021 with a maximum of $2,200. 
  • Two weeks of paid parental leave for both men and women at the birth or adoption of a child. 
  • Paid maternity leave benefits for women while pregnant or following a birth. 

The latter two represent the first time SEPTA has ever been contractually obligated to provide those benefits. 

Previously, a pregnant employee was required to exhaust all paid sick leave before qualifying for unpaid pregnancy leave.

“We are pleased to reach an agreement with union leadership on a contract that is fair to our employees and financially responsible for SEPTA,” wrote SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. in a statement.

The new deal also includes adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday, as well as adjustments to vacation quotas and attendance policies. 

The pandemic bonus was a huge talking point throughout negotiations, as nearly 800 union members contracted COVID-19 and 11 have died of COVID-19 or related complications, according to union leaders. 

“Our members are essential workers who move Philadelphia and who have risked their lives putting their own families at risk during this pandemic,” Willie Brown, Local 234 president, wrote in a statement. 

Union leaders had originally asked for a four-year contract with annual wage increases and a pandemic payment to compensate SEPTA workers who had served on the frontlines during the pandemic and kept public transportation moving for other frontline essential workers. 

The union also asked for enhanced safety measurements in its new deal, however, there is no clear indication of whether that was addressed as part of the contract’s terms. 

SEPTA reported last year that it was losing nearly $1 million a day in fare revenue, as ridership rebounded from the lockdowns caused by the pandemic. According to SEPTA, ridership is still at only 47% of pre-pandemic levels, which is in part why the agreement was only a two-year deal.

It remains to be seen how negotiations will go when the new contract is set to expire in 2023. 

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