PHILADELPHIA – Negotiations aimed at ending a transit strike in Philadelphia broke off Saturday night with Pennsylvania's governor calling on the union to let its members vote on the company's offer.
"In my 32 years in government, I have never been more disappointed by a negotiation than I am right now tonight," Gov. Ed Rendell told reporters Saturday evening.
Rendell, who has been brokering the talks, announced a tentative agreement Friday night to end the walkout that began Tuesday, but he said the union had raised as many as nine new issues on Saturday. He said the talks finally broke down over the union's insistence on being able to audit the pension fund and on the possible impact of national health insurance reform.
Transport Workers Union Local 234 represents about 5,000 bus drivers, subway and trolley operators and mechanics of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority who walked off the job early Tuesday over pension benefits.
The union scheduled a news conference later Saturday night to respond to the governor's statements.
The union had threatened to strike while the World Series was in town last weekend, but negotiators continued bargaining after Rendell threatened "significant consequences" if that happened. The union went on strike hours after the series between the Phillies and Yankees shifted back to New York.
SEPTA's regional railroad is still running because those workers are represented by a different union, but that system has experienced problems of its own this week.
On Wednesday, a railcar caught fire as it headed downtown, causing delays and confusion but no serious injuries. On Thursday, a packed commuter train struck and killed a rail worker during the morning rush, stranding hundreds of riders as lines had to be shut down for hours.
Neither accident was related to increased volume due to the strike, SEPTA said.