SEPTA Transit Police union on strike after negotiations break down

Mark Abrams
March 06, 2019 - 12:36 pm
SEPTA transit police union have called a strike.

Mark Abrams/KYW Newsradio

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UPDATED: 6:50 p.m. 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The SEPTA Transit Police union is on strike. Nearly 180 members of the Fraternal Order of Transit Police who patrol the SEPTA system in Philadelphia and the suburbs walked off the job Wednesday afternoon, after union negotiators suspended talks with the transit agency.

The actual walkout came nearly four hours after a threatened strike deadline that was delivered to SEPTA and the media. 

“They led us to believe that we were almost there and then at the last minute we have to call the strike. It’s unfortunate,” said Troy Parham, Vice President of FOTP Lodge 109. 

Parham said the dispute centers on work rules. He declined to elaborate on them publicly, but said the union’s bargaining team is ready to resume talks at any time.

The strike is not going to affect service at all throughout the entire SEPTA system. The buses, trains, trolleys and subways will continue to operate. The only difference is SEPTA Transit Police supervisors will be out patrolling the system along with Philadelphia police, and some suburban police departments will be assisting at some of the suburbs. 

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SEPTA’s Andrew Busch called the situation frustrating and disappointing. 

“Nearly 50 SEPTA Transit police supervisors are working 12-hour shifts to cover patrols and Philadelphia police and suburban police departments are assisting at some stations." 
 
Busch said he hopes the strike is short-lived. The last time the transit police union rank-and-file walked out was for a week in 2012. 

FOP 109 president Omari J. Bervine said the officers are underpaid, and the Transit Police is understaffed. 

"Over the past couple of years we have lost nearly 50 officers, which is approximately 20 percent of our workforce to better paying jobs." He says having fewer officers puts public safety at risk.

Another complaint from the union is a disparity in pay between officers and management-level employees. 

In a statement, SEPTA stated they have "been negotiating with the FOTP in hopes of reaching a fair and equitable contract agreement," and they "urge the FOTP to return to the bargaining table so a resolution can be reached."