Striking Phoenix bus drivers to vote on contract Thursday

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Tess Rafols

Posted on March 15, 2012 at 8:23 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 15 at 9:23 PM

PHOENIX -- In less than 24 hours, a six-day-old bus strike could be over and hundreds of drivers back on the job.

While specifics of the new contract that's on the table have not been released, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 is recommending that members vote to approve it.

Some 650 Phoenix drivers will vote starting at 11 a.m. Thursday. An additional 330 Tempe drivers will vote Friday.

The contracts are more than two years in the making. ATU and Veolia Transportation Services, the company that runs half of Valley Metro's bus routes, have been negotiating for 22 months.

The issues that were toughest to hammer out involved sick-leave accrual, retirement benefits and health-care coverage.

All along Veolia had said it was offering a "generous" package, but ATU drivers said the company had been negotiating in "bad faith."

The two sides came together with a federal mediator Tuesday and on Wednesday, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton announced that a "handshake agreement" had been reached.

The striking bus drivers, who have not had a contract for the past two years, are relieved and eager to get back to work.

"This was a long time coming," said ATU Local 1433 Chief Steward Frank Zuckerbrow. "It took a long time to get here, but at least it's over."

"It's a great feeling because we have fought hard for this," bus operator Patricia Moore said. "We've waited two years for this. It's a feeling that I can't describe to you. It's finally here. We can't wait to get in there and vote and get back to work!"

Phoenix bus drivers could be back on the road as soon as Friday morning. Tempe drivers could be back behind the wheel by Saturday.

Frustrated riders who have been stranded and inconvenienced all week are welcoming the news that an end is in sight.

If you have questions for Valley Metro, you can contact customer service at csr@valleymetro.org or 602-253-5000.

>>> Click here to see the latest bus route frequency schedule from Valley Metro.

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