SEPTA union to hold off on strike

SEPTA bus, trolley and subway operators won't immediately strike, even if no new agreement is reached before a union division's contract expires at midnight.

SEPTA has been negotiating a new agreement with the City Transit Division of the Transport Workers Union Local 234, whose contract ends at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

The union said in a statement Friday afternoon that its workers would remain on the job after the current contract expires.

The TWU sent SEPTA a proposal on Thursday, and the agency sent the union a counter-proposal this morning. SEPTA also asked the union for a three-month extension.

TWU Local 234 President Willie Brown said in the statement that the union is "willing to go the extra mile to reach a fair agreement," but didn't want a long contract extentsion.

Separate contracts with other union divisions expire next month. Discussions regarding those contracts are also under way, and any strike would involve all the divisions whose contracts are being negotiatied, Brown said.

Sticking points between SEPTA and the City Transit Division include discipline, surveillance cameras, pension changes and the Affordable Care Act, according to the union.

The divison employs 4,700 operators and mechanics and carries an average of 825,000 passengers each weekday.

TWU workers last went on strike in 2009. That six-day walkout also involved the City Transit Division, shutting down bus, trolley and subway service within Philadelphia.

SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said this morning that negotiations with the City Transit Division had been slated to resume this morning at the Sheraton Downtown Hotel, but the union notified the transit agency that it wouldn't be coming to the hotel today or over the weekend.

However, Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman for the union, said no meeting had been scheduled, and TWU officials needed time to review the transit agency's counter-proposal.

SEPTA also outlined contingency plans Friday morning in case of a strike.

Some riders had been worried about that possibility.

"I don't drive," Faith Burdick said while waiting for a bus in Center City Friday morning. "I rely on SEPTA for everything."

The South Philadelphia resident said she didn't know what she would do if the buses, trolleys and subways she uses stopped running.

"It shuts the city down," she said.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443 or Follow @phillynews on Twitter.