By Paul Nussbaum / Inquirer Staff Writer
SEPTA transit police overwhelmingly ratified a new four-year contract yesterday, formally ending a long-running contract dispute that prompted a brief strike last weekend.
After having rejected three earlier tentative agreements, members of the Fraternal Order of Transit Police (FOTP) voted 133-9 to approve the latest agreement.
The contract provides for 3 percent annual pay increases, an increase in “longevity” pay, a 1 percent-of-pay contribution by police to their health-insurance coverage, a $270,000 increase in payments to survivors of an officer killed in the line of duty, and an increase in officers’ pensions.
“I’m glad this is over,” a smiling union president Richard Neal Jr. said at FOTP headquarters after the votes were tallied. “We look forward to going back and doing what we do best, serving the riding public.”
After 32 months without a contract, the 198 transit police walked off the job last Friday afternoon, but returned for the 7 a.m. Saturday shift, as Mayor Nutter quickly prodded the union and SEPTA back to the bargaining table.
The police, who patrol subway concourses and stations, were seeking the same pay as officers in the Philadelphia Police Department, who start at about $39,000 a year.
The starting salary for a SEPTA police officer was $30,752 a year, with a maximum salary after four years of $49,804, including longevity payments.
The provisions of the new contract mean that by 2011, the starting salary will be about $34,600, and the top salary for the most veteran transit officers will be about $57,200.
Neal praised Nutter, City Councilmen Curtis Jones Jr. and Jack Kelly, U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), and State Rep. Tony Payton Jr. (D., Phila.) for helping bring the union and SEPTA to terms.