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6 Day Philadelphia Transit Strike Ends

Representatives of Philadelphia's transit system and its largest union signed a contract early Monday, bringing an end to a strike that idled the city's subways, buses and trolleys for six days.

"The strike is over," Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told reporters at a hastily called news conference in the lobby of a Philadelphia hotel. The governor said the transit system would be back up and running in time for Monday morning's commute.

About 5,000 workers of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority walked off the job early last Tuesday in a dispute centered around pension benefits.

"This was a team effort, and that's what it takes to get a deal done," Mayor Michael Nutter said, crediting the intervention of the governor and U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa.

Willie Brown, president of the Transport Workers Local 234, said a ratification vote will likely be held in about a week and a half, and he expects members to approve the contract.

Rendell and Brady had announced a tentative agreement late Friday, but it fell apart Saturday over the union's call for an independent forensic audit of the pension fund and assurance that members would not be affected if the company's costs increased with possible passage of a national health reform plan.

Brady said reports that negotiations had broken off were wrong.

"I never stopped talking to him, I never stopped talking to him, I never stopped talking to him," he said, pointing to Brown, the governor and other officials.

The governor said changes to the language regarding national health care and another change on dental benefits cleared the way for a deal. On the union's call for a forensic audit of pension funds, the governor said the union's two members on the pension fund's advisory board could call for such an audit "so that became a non-issue."

The union had threatened to strike while the World Series was in town, but negotiators continued bargaining after Rendell threatened consequences if that happened. The union went on strike early Tuesday, hours after the series between the Phillies and Yankees shifted back to New York.

Regional SEPTA trains have continued to run because their workers are represented by a different union, but the system has seen packed trains and problems of its own. A railcar heading downtown caught fire Wednesday, causing delays and confusion but no serious injuries.

On Thursday, a train struck and killed a rail worker, stranding hundreds of riders during the morning rush hour. The agency said neither accident was related to increased volume due to the strike.

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