North America

Bus strike ends in Phoenix metro area

Passengers disembark a Valley Metro bus at the Gilbert Park-and-Ride Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 in Gilbert, Ariz. (Photo: David Kadlubowski, The Arizona Republic)TEMPE, Ariz. — A four-day bus strike that affected tens of thousands of Tempe, Ariz., area residents has ended as the union and the bus company reached an agreement on a contract Sunday.
 
Public buses across the southeast Valley will be rolling again Monday morning for the start of a new work week and the first day of school for many students, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 negotiator Michael Cornelius said.
 
The union and First Transit, which operates bus service for Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority, along with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton all confirmed early Sunday afternoon that an agreement has been reached on a three-year contract that ends the strike that began Thursday that shut down service in Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler and parts of Scottsdale and Ahwatukee Foothills, as well as express routes from the southeast Valley communities to Phoenix and Scottsdale Airpark.
 
The agreement was reached after a 32-hour negotiating session that was aimed at resolving the dispute between the 560 drivers and the company.
 
In all, 40 of Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority's 101 Phoenix-area bus lines ceased operating. The affected lines average 57,000 weekday boardings.
 
Both parties apologized for the hardship that bus riders endured while stranded in the summer desert heat for transportation to work, appointments and health care, and both parties also thanked riders for their patience.
 
"We're going back to work. Buses will be running full-service (Monday morning)," Cornelius said. "We're very happy that we're going to be able to provide services to our community again and we're very sorry that they got caught in the middle of this."
 
"We are confident that this agreement serves the best interests of our union employees, the riding public, Valley Metro, and First Transit," said First Transit Senior Vice President Nick Promponas. "While we regret that a strike was not averted during the course of the negotiations, we appreciate that the ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) has shared our desire to resume transit service throughout the community as quickly as possible."
 
With a tentative agreement in hand, union negotiators Sunday instructed drivers to leave the picket lines and report to work Monday.
 
Both parties said that Stanton had been pushing them via telephone conversations overnight to reach accord and that the presence of former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor along with a federal mediator gave an outside perspective that aided negotiations.
 
The contract does not include any provision for a minimum-service agreement. That is not a labor-bargaining issue for Amalgamated Transit nor First Transit. That is an operations contract element controlled by Valley Metro and the procurement board that created the bid that went out for contract early this year. All parties may continue to be subject to that provision for at least three more years during the remainder of the operations contract, which now would sync up with the new labor contract.
 
During a six-day, March 2012 strike by Amalgamated Transit against Veolia Transportation Services, which was the bus operator at that time, there was a requirement for minimum service. While drivers were on strike, skeleton bus service continued.
 
In the strike just ended, there was no minimum-service agreement in the operating contract so the strike created a total shutdown of service across the area.
 

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