Students may be forced to find alternative routes to commute to and from Main Campus next week. SEPTA workers have unanimously voted to strike on Nov. 1 unless a contract is agreed upon.
About 5,000 SEPTA employees who operate the bus, trolley and subway systems are part of the Transit Workers Union Local 234, which announced the possible strike on Oct. 16.
“As with any potential disruption to public transportation services, the university is actively monitoring the situation and discussing ways in which we could augment services to help minimize effects for members of the Temple community,” wrote Brandon Lausch, a university spokesman, in an email. “We will continue those discussions over the next week so we are prepared to respond if the need arises.”
Andrew Busch, a public information manager for SEPTA, said a “Service Interruption Guide” will be posted later in the week if the union and SEPTA do not reach an agreement. The guide will show alternate routes and services that will still be available throughout the city.
He said in the event of a strike, people should expect the Market Frankford Line, Broad Street Line, bus routes and trolley routes within the city would halt operations. The Regional Rail, suburban bus route and the suburban trolley lines would not be affected, he added.
A 2015 transportation survey the university conducted showed that nearly 29 percent of students, faculty and staff commute by subway, bus or trolley.
Busch said because most of the Silverliner V cars that were pulled off the tracks in July are back and that the schedule has returned to normal, Regional Rail should not face any issues in the event of a strike.
“There isn’t much more we can do to mitigate those services that would be out,” Busch said. “But you certainly don’t have to worry about anything happening this week.”
A spokesperson for the union said the strike was a result of three major issues: pension, health care and the safety of the workers.
He said SEPTA wanted to cut pensions for operators but increase pensions for managers. SEPTA had promised to take that out of the contracts two years ago, but have failed to do so, he said.
The spokesman added that SEPTA was proposing to take the workers out of their current health care program and place them into a “far inferior one.” He said that based on the nature of the work that the union members do, they need adequate health care.
Finally, the spokesperson said, the union wanted SEPTA to reevaluate its system for scheduling bus drivers — right now, they are on-call at any time of the day to maintain “flexibility.”
“It disrupts peoples’ sleep schedules,” he said. “A driver could be called in at midnight, and then 8 a.m. the next day, and then 4 p.m. the next afternoon.”
He said SEPTA should divide the shifts into a daytime and nighttime schedule, which would reduce the number of accidents.
Since negotiations began in July, the members of Local 234 were told to prepare for the possible strike, and then voted unanimously Oct. 16. to authorize it.
“Right now our focus is on the ongoing negotiation,” Busch said. “We hope that we’ll be able to reach an agreement before the strike happens.”
“Any time there’s a contract negotiation, the discussion is centered around pay, healthcare, retirement and pensions,” he added. “But the details of those we leave at the negotiation table.”
In 2005, when Local 234 workers went on strike for a week, Temple provided free bus shuttles for commuters as well as discounted parking, The Temple News reported. The university had been planning transportation alternatives in the event of a strike for a year in advance, Mark Eyerly, the chief communications officer for Temple told The Temple News in 2005.
For updates on the negotiations, Busch said to monitor local media and the SEPTA website.
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ChristieJules.