After a threat to transit service last week, a SEPTA union president said the transportation authority has addressed most of the demands to better safeguard employees against the coronavirus.
Transport Workers Union Local 234 president Willie Brown said progress has been made on the biggest concerns, including temperature screening for employees. While “not a win-win,” Brown said members are "more comfortable.” He is not calling for any new “job action” at this time.
“We got the main stuff out the way,” Brown said. "We can move forward with it.”
Employees at a higher risk of contracting the illness can take sick leave, while SEPTA is working toward a way to saliva-test employees, according to a TWU Local 234 newsletter posted Tuesday that outlines a number of “improvements” that have been made or are in progress.
Maintenance employees working 40 hours a week will get some compensation time instead of the union’s call to work for four days and have three days off. The union is still working on a way to better conduct contact tracing for employees infected by the virus.
Brown was preparing workers to take a possible job action last week that prompted SEPTA to warn of “significant service disruptions.” He then postponed the action by “a couple days” after Mayor Jim Kenney stepped in.
Transport Workers Union Local 234 represents thousands of employees, including drivers and operators.
SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said discussions were moving in “a good direction” at the end of last week.
“We thought we had found enough common ground on the issues that the union had brought up that we weren’t looking at a job action,” he said.
On Sunday, SEPTA started a “headway-based” schedule that discards an exact timetable in favor of showing how often service will arrive. The effort was done to alleviate crowding, Busch said.
This week, SEPTA plans to bring back some of its articulated buses, which are about a third longer than the buses it is using, after finding a solution to clean its cloth seats as well as installing protective barriers for drivers.
More than 200 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.
In an email sent Monday, general manager Leslie Richards informed employees of the authority’s fifth death related to the coronavirus: Yolanda Woodberry, a SEPTA bus operator within its Frankford Depot.
“My heart goes out to that family,” Brown said.