A state trial court judge late last week put the brakes on a plan by SEPTA to outsource maintenance work on a fleet of city commuter railcars, ordering the mass transit agency and the union representing its employees to meet during the next few months to attempt to come to an agreement on the matter.
Lawyers for the Transport Workers Union of Philadelphia, Local 234, filed suit June 8 seeking injunctive relief to prevent the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority from outsourcing maintenance work on damaged Market-Frankford Subway Elevated railcars.
In late 2009 and early 2010, SEPTA discovered cracks to the frames of some of its elevated railcars and contacted Bombardier Mass Transit Corp., the successor to the original manufacturer of the railcars, to see about getting maintenance work completed, according to the union’s court filing.
SEPTA entered into an agreement with Bombardier this past April to perform repair work on the railcars at no charge.
As part of that agreement, the suit states, SEPTA also agreed to send “overhaul work” on 176 M-4 trucks to Bombardier.
The contract price for that so-called “overhaul work” is $13 million, the suit states.
The union’s lawsuit claims that SEPTA officials never engaged the union in a discussion about the necessity of subcontracting the overhaul work to Bombardier, as required by the collective bargaining agreement.
“There was no unforeseen emergency in the subcontracting of the ‘Overhaul Work,’” the lawsuit stated.
The suit also claimed that there is no shortage of fully qualified SEPTA employees to perform the desired work.
The union stated that it filed for injunctive relief because Bombardier, “in all likelihood,” would have performed the overhaul work long before an arbitrator would have had the opportunity to issue an award; the union on April 20 of this year filed a grievance claiming that SEPTA violated the collective bargaining agreement.
In an answer to the complaint, SEPTA’s lawyers disputed that it violated the collective bargaining agreement with the workers’ union.
“SEPTA notified the Union of its intention to outsource the overhaul work, met with the Union to discuss the outsourcing and responded to multiple requests for information made by the Union,” SEPTA lawyers Daniel V. Johns and Kelly T. Kindig wrote in their response, which was filed June 13.
In a memorandum of law in support of their position, SEPTA’s lawyers also wrote that injunctive relief should be denied because the union failed to demonstrate how it would suffer immediate and irreparable harm should the outsourcing of the overhaul work be allowed to proceed.
“No bargaining unit employees will be laid off or otherwise lose their jobs because of the subletting of the overhaul work,” SEPTA’s attorneys wrote in the memorandum. “Indeed, the collective bargaining agreement itself specifically prohibits layoffs within the bargaining unit during the term of the agreement.”
The judge presiding over the case, however, seemed to disagree with SEPTA’s contentions.
This past Friday, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Idee C. Fox heard oral arguments in the matter, and shortly thereafter, she issued her ruling, ordering the parties to meet a minimum of three times in an attempt to come to an agreement on the matter before coming back to her courtroom on Aug. 10, court records show.
In the meantime, Fox OK’d the injunction sought by the Transit Workers Union, writing in her order that the “status quo” must be maintained between now and when both sides return to court later this summer.