PHOENIX -- Representatives of striking bus drivers in Phoenix and Tempe and officials from Veolia Transportation Services sat down Tuesday in an effort to end the four-day old work stoppage that has stranded riders throughout the Phoenix metro area.
Bus drivers say they want to get back on the road, but they are willing to picket as long as it takes to get a contract they consider fair.
In 22 months of negotiations between Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 and Veolia, the two sides have come to agreements on 50 of 56 issues. The remaining articles -- and continual stumbling blocks -- have to do with wages and benefits, including the accrual of sick time, retirement benefits and health-care coverage.
While Veolia says it has made a "generous offer" to its employees, union members insist they are not being treated fairly.
"We've been working without a contract because we have a relationship with our passengers," said longtime driver Patricia Moore. "I feel bad about leaving my passengers out there. But we've got to do what we've to do. The things that they're doing to us, it's unacceptable."
According to Veolia, a federal mediator has contact ATU Local 1433. Moore said she is hoping for a resolution when the two sides meet Tuesday afternoon.
With 900 bus drivers on strike in Tempe and Phoenix, half of the Veolia-operated lines are seriously affected. On Tuesday morning, it was estimated that the Phoenix routes were operating at about 17 percent of their normal weekday schedules while Tempe was running at about 26 percent. Veolia has brought in drivers from out of state in an effort to keep at least some of the buses moving.
Phoenix and Tempe are not the only Valley cities to feel the effects of the bus strike. Riders in surrounding cities were experiencing delays, as well.
While the Light Rail is not affected by the strike, Valley Metro has been advising its 200,000 daily bus riders to make alternate arrangements for transportation whenever possible.
If you have questions for Valley Metro, you can contact customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-253-5000.