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2 Unions Authorize Strikes Against SEPTA Regional Rails

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The clock has begun ticking on a 30-day cooling-off period between Septa and two unions representing transit workers in its rail division.

Those unions have each authorized a strike if there's no agreement when the cooling-off period ends on June 14th.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen voted this week, by a 99-percent majority, to authorize a strike, joining the rail division's electricians.

The unions have been working without a contract for four years, and mediation officially failed last month, triggering the cooling-off period.

Septa spokeswoman Jerri Williams says the transit agency is still hoping for an agreement.

"We have until the very end of the cooling-off period, and we are reaching out, still hoping that we can work this out," she told KYW Newsradio.

That's unlikely, says electricians' union general manager Arthur Davidson.

"There are economic issues with respect to Septa's offer to us," he said, "and because we cannot resolve those economic issues, we are preparing to discontinue service on Septa effective June 14th."

Davidson declined to discuss the specifics of the issues, but Williams says Septa has offered the unions 11½-percent raises.

She says Septa is still hoping they can reach agreement. Failing that, she says, "The next step would be to request a Presidential Emergency Board."

Williams says presidential intervention would delay a strike for 240 days while the board investigates the dispute.

The unions would prefer binding arbitration.


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