Penn responds to SEPTA strike

As strike continues, Penn works with Drexel, Penn Health to set up alternate shuttle service

· November 4, 2009, 4:23 am   ·  Updated November 4, 2009, 12:00 am

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After widespread belief that a potential transit strike last Saturday had been averted, over 5,000 SEPTA employees put the brakes on their buses, trains and trolleys and hit the picket lines early Tuesday morning.

After the Phillies game ended Monday night, Transport Workers Union Local 234 leaders and SEPTA management met an impasse in negotiations, causing union workers to walk off the job at 3 a.m. Tuesday. The strike left many commuters, including Penn employees, stranded when rush hour arrived.

Penn has enacted its previously announced contingency plan in an effort to keep University operations running smoothly during the strike.

According to Business Services Division Spokeswoman Barbara Lea-Kruger, the University is partnering with Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania Health System to add a shuttle service to accommodate employees.

Kruger said information was sent out to University affiliates, such as Bon Appetit, to be passed along to employees.

But with the evening rush hour approaching, Bon Appetit employees said they had received little information from management.

Penn Dining employee Doreen Gibson said she walked 30 blocks to her job in McClelland Hall this morning because her normal bus service wasn’t running.

Gibson, along with her coworker Lori Friend, said they had not received any information about shuttle schedules or location.

“They should at least give us the right information about the buses,” Gibson said.

Friend, who has worked for Penn Dining for 29 years, said she hoped management would be flexible about hours and delayed arrivals during the strike.

In a University-wide e-mail Tuesday, Penn urged administrators to be “as flexible as possible” in adjusting hours for staff in the face of the strike.

Lea-Kruger said Business Services is monitoring the situation with SEPTA.

“For the foreseeable future, the contingency plan will remain in place,” she said.

Mediators, including Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, helped avert a threat by the union to strike Saturday night while the World Series was still in Philadelphia.

Though the two sides were reportedly close to making a deal, disputes over pension contributions ultimately brought talks — and the city’s transit system — to a halt.

“SEPTA management has never left the bargaining table,” said SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams.

Union leaders have not announced plans to resume talks, but have scheduled a press conference for 11:30 a.m. today, Williams said.

“Unfortunately there’s no indication how long it will take,” she added. “We’re not quite sure of all the issues the Union has.”

A representative from the workers union could not be reached for comment.

For further information about Penn’s SEPTA strike contingency plan, visit business-services.upenn.edu/transportation.

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