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Philly transit workers' pact expires at midnight

By: KATHY MATHESON
March 14, 2014 Updated: March 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is preparing for a possible service disruption even though union workers have given no indication they plan to walk off the job when their contract expires at midnight, agency officials said Friday.

However, representatives from Transport Workers Union Local 234 did not show up to a planned bargaining session on Friday, SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said. The union also did not respond to the agency's request for a three-month contract extension, she said.

"We had a meeting scheduled, they did not show. What that means, I can't tell you," Williams said at a news conference. "Whenever they want to come back to talk to us, we're available."

A spokesman for the union, which represents about 4,700 employees, could not immediately be reached for comment. A strike by transit workers in 2009 lasted six days.

SEPTA received a contract proposal from the union earlier this week and sent back a counter-proposal on Friday, Williams said, though she did not disclose details. Employee benefits and wages account for about 70 percent of its $1.3 billion operating budget this year.

If employees walked out early Saturday, transit lines within the city of Philadelphia would not operate. That includes buses, trolleys and two subway lines that provide about 825,000 passenger trips on an average weekday.

However, the 13 regional rail lines that serve the suburbs would continue operating. Extra cars would be added and managers would help collect fares, officials said.

Some bus routes that start in the suburbs and end in the city can be altered to drop passengers at rail stations where they can continue their trips into Philadelphia, officials said.

Riders can check the transit system's status through SEPTA's website and social media accounts.

Annual ridership for SEPTA, the nation's sixth-largest transit operator, totals about 337 million, most of it on city lines.

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Follow Kathy Matheson at www.twitter.com/kmatheson.

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