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Philadelphia Transit Strike Ends

Philadelphia Transit Strike Ends

STEPHANIE FARR, DAFNEY TALES & ALBERT STUMM | The Philadelphia Daily News via YellowBrix

November 09, 2009

Local 234 spokesman Bob Wolper said yesterday that the union had balked because SEPTA had wanted to add a clause to reopen the contract for talks with members about out-of-pocket costs should any health-care reform increase costs to the transit agency.

Regarding the audit, he said, SEPTA has told the union that an independent firm audits the fund and that the union could hire an auditor to check that report.

“That is not what a forensic audit is,” he said, noting that the union wants to look at the original books and have an independent firm perform its own audit.

“We want to get the information, not deal with the information SEPTA decides to give to us,” Wolper said.

The pension emerged as the major issue in negotiations, with the union claiming that its pension is funded at only 52 percent, compared to 72 percent funding for the management pension.

On Saturday, after the union raised its objections, a “frustrated” Rendell said that he would no longer be party to the talks.

“I am out – I have a state to run,” he said.

“In my 32 years in government, I have never been more disappointed with a negotiation than I am right now tonight.”

He also gave an ultimatum: If the standing SEPTA contract is not put before the union’s membership for a vote by midnight tonight, he is taking $7 million in state money with him.

“It is our belief that members would vote overwhelmingly to take this contract,” he said.

The tentative agreement reached Friday night was for a five-year contract that called for no raise in the first year but a $1,250 signing bonus, a 2.5 percent raise in year two and a 3 percent raise in each of the remaining three years.

The workers, who pay 1 percent of base salary for health care, would not have had to increase health-care contributions.

The deal also increased workers’ contributions to the pension fund from 2 percent to 3.5 percent and raised the maximum pension to $30,000 a year from $27,000.

Local 234 represents about 5,500 bus drivers, trolley and subway operators and mechanics making an average of $52,000 a year.

Staff writer Dan Geringer contributed to this report.

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