Bus strike possible this week in Phoenix metro

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX – With a “best and final” offer on the table from Veolia Transportation Services, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, which represents Veolia’s drivers, is slated to vote by Tuesday to either accept the offer or go on strike. Results of that vote are expected Tuesday night.

According to the city’s transit department, ATU is encouraging the drivers to vote no. Such a vote does not automatically mean that the drivers will strike, but the ATU members approved a strike in an October 2010 vote.

If the drivers decide to strike, it could happen as soon as Wednesday morning.

With that in mind, Veolia is making contingency plans.

Veolia has an agreement with the city that requires it to run at 60 percent of bus service during work stoppages. That level of service is equivalent to a typical Sunday. Routes in Phoenix, Glendale, Tempe and Scottsdale could be disrupted.

The issues Veolia and ATU are trying to hash out are not new. Negotiations have been going on for more than a year. Pay and sick leave are at the heart of the dispute.

ATU is not happy with Veolia’s offer, saying it would increase employee pay by just 3 percent over five years and would take sick leave that employees have accrued.

A similar vote took place in April, less than a month after drivers staged a sickout. Negotiations were extended again at that time.

The city has not been involved in the negotiations between Veolia, which operates 33 routes for Valley Metro, and ATU.

Last October Veolia locked out dozens of bus employees – not drivers or mechanics – in a similar contract dispute with the Teamsters union. Veolia brought in extra workers to cover for those employees. The effects of that lockout on bus riders were limited and labor agreements were eventually reached.