Airport bus drivers on strike; expect delays

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Airport bus drivers at Sky Harbor are now on strike and picket lines could mean longer waits for people trying to get around the airport.

Veolia is the company contracted by the City of Phoenix to provide bus service to the airport, ferrying passengers between the terminals, west economy lot and the rental car facility. About 150 drivers work the airport routes. 

The Amalgamated Transit Union called the strike Tuesday afternoon. Workers told 3TV one of their biggest complaints against Veolia is health care, claiming some employees pay more for health insurance than what they make per month.

“It's either to feed my kids or buy the health insurance…there's no way [I can do both],” said Jassim Jafar, a bus driver.

Other workers said they would rather be working than striking.

“Because we got families, folks, that we work to take care of and that's all we're trying to do. [We want to] come in, do a good job and get supported by Veolia, which we're not getting,” said Maurice Birdsong, a bus driver.

The current contract for these workers has been under negotiation for more than a year. Veolia executives told 3TV that they've met with the transit union some 18 times trying to work this out.

“A lot of the issues they're saying are their reasons for going on strike we had tentatively agreed on previously. So from our standpoint we're pretty surprised they decided to strike,” said Michael Brown, general manager of Veolia.

Veolia said it can operate the airport buses at about 80 percent of normal by combining workers from other areas of the company with those who choose to cross the picket lines.

Sky Harbor is telling passengers to allow an extra 10 to 15 minutes for getting around the airport.

It’s unclear when both sides will get back to the bargaining table. The union told 3TV it’s ready to talk as early as Wednesday. Veolia executives told 3TV it’s possible on Friday but no date has been set.