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Philadelphia transit partially restored after pact

Negotiators for the region’s transit agency and the union representing striking workers reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract, Gov. Ed Rendell said Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Subway, trolley and bus service began returning to normal Monday after negotiators for the region’s transit agency and striking workers reached a tentative agreement to end a weeklong walkout.

Gov. Ed Rendell, flanked by union and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority officials, announced the agreement reached in an all-night bargaining session.

“We have an agreement, and it is a good agreement,” he said.

The four-year pact must still be ratified by both sides, but some workers were already back on the job Monday morning. Limited subway and bus service was running by 7 a.m., and full service was expected by the afternoon rush hour.

“This works for all parties,” said Jeff Brooks, president of Transport Workers Union Local 234. He said he believed the union’s membership would sign off on the agreement.

The strike involved about 5,000 Transport Workers members and 300 suburban transit employees represented by United Transportation Union Local 1594. Bob Bedard, a spokesman for the larger union, said ratification votes would not be held for at least four to five days.

The walkout inconvenienced more than 400,000 daily riders, including 27,000 public school students who receive free or subsidized transit tokens.

Sharla McDonald, waiting for a bus on Broad Street on Monday morning, said she was relieved that the strike was over. She walked about 25 blocks each day, round trip, to get to and from her job downtown.

“It wasn’t bad walking last week because the weather was still good,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done if it (the strike) went on into the winter. I hope we don’t have to worry about another one for a long time.”

The city’s last transit strike, in 1998, lasted 40 days.

Rendell stepped into the dispute over the weekend and met with both sides Sunday.

The union agreed to have workers pay 1 percent of their salary for health care after years when most did not have to pay a premium, the governor said. The union also agreed to some other company demands and received what Rendell called “a significant increase” in pensions.

The transit administration earlier had asked that employees pay 5 percent of their health insurance premiums.

Union spokesman Bob Bedard said the contract includes salary increases of 3 percent for each year of the four years. He said the union also got some work rule changes it had sought.

“It’s great to be back,” said transit authority board chairman Pasquale “Pat” Deon.