Ground gained, but was it worth it?

PHILADELPHIA. Millions of passengers thrown into a tailspin, hundreds of dollars down the drain for local businesses, and six days without pay or health benefits for more than 5,000 bus drivers, train operators and mechanics.

The question as SEPTA’s largest union went back to work yesterday: was it worth it?

The tentative agreement finally reached late Sunday between SEPTA and Transport Workers Union Local 234 increased annual pension payments for retirees from $27,000 to $30,000, ensured workers’ seniority rights and eliminated a clause that would have reopened talks should a federal health care bill cost SEPTA more money.

Union president Willie Brown took heat from politicians involved in negotiations and riders in the last week after passing up what some considered a good deal. In the end, the union gained some ground, as Horowitz noted, but not as much as it had hoped for, losing out on a bid to audit workers’ pension fund.

“The monetary issues were important, but some of these non-monetary issues were also important,” said Jamie Horowitz, a spokesman for TWU, pointing to seniority rights and the language on health care. “Certainly we didn’t get it all…but, in general, we won on every front.”

Still, bus driver Delroy Campbell applauded union leadership for its tough approach.

“Sometimes you have to sacrifice to get good [things],” he said. “From what I hear of the agreement, I’m really satisfied with what [Willie Brown] did.”