After six days of angst, an agreement was reached between Veolia Transportation Services and Amalgamated Transit Union 1433, and the bus-driver strike in Phoenix has ended.
“We understand that it caused a lot of great distress. Now that the contract vote has been ratified, we’re working to get the buses running ASAP,” said Valerie Michael, director of corporate communications for Veolia.
Veolia and ATU 1433 met Thursday morning to finalize the agreement so that services could be restored today. Restoration of Veolia bus service throughout Phoenix Friday hinged on the outcome of a vote by union members Thursday.
“There may be some issues as things are starting up, but we expect for buses to run as normal,” said Matthew Heil, a city of Phoenix public-information officer.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton accelerated a City Council meeting to decide how the Public Transit Department would charge Veolia for liquidated damages. Stanton moved the item, originally planned for March 21, to Thursday morning.
The Phoenix City Council voted 6-2 to approve a recommendation of the city’s transit staff to revise its contract with Veolia Transportation.
The revisions were developed by transit staff in mid-2011 and make contract performance language consistent with industry norms and Federal Transit Administration requirements that penalties be “fair and reasonable.”
“Current penalty language, which was revised today, was not in line with FTA or industry standards,” said Veolia officials in a press release Thursday.
The vote to ratify the contract between Veolia and ATU 1433 union members was approved, 97 percent to 3 percent, in a 7-hour meeting.
“I’m happy, I’m excited. We didn’t lose anything. We got everything we wanted. We didn’t lose, and that was the main point,” said Dennis Paulson, member of the executive board for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433.
In Tempe, restoration of all Veolia Tempe bus service is possible tomorrow, pending the outcome of a vote by union members today.
On midnight on Friday, March 9, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 went on strike against their employer Veolia Transportation Services, which has a contract to manage bus service for the city of Phoenix and a separate contract with the city of Tempe.
The amount of service provided throughout the strike depended on the number of bus operators who showed up for work and back-up drivers available. Some bus routes were running on reduced schedules, while others were not operating at all.
ASU intercampus shuttles and light rail were not affected by the strike.
A handshake agreement was reached between Veolia Transportation Services and ATU 1433 on Wednesday, amid the bus strike, which was announced Stanton in a press release Wednesday.
“Both sides were committed to getting the job done,” Stanton said in the press release.
“In any negotiation, there is give and take. At the end of the day, you have to be committed to getting the yes and that’s exactly what happened in this negotiation,” he said.
Wednesday was a step forward in the resolution of the bus strike.
“Friday, when the buses are running and people can get to their jobs on time, get to school on time and get to their doctor’s appointment, all the critically important needs of this community that are met by having a high-quality transit service, that will also be a great day for this city,” Stanton said.
The impact on bus service changed throughout each day of the strike.
“We want to thank bus riders for enduring what we know has been a difficult week,” said Veolia officials in a press release Wednesday.
Veolia-operated buses in Phoenix were operating 29 percent of normal weekday service levels on Thursday. Throughout the bus strike, Veolia buses were operating at levels as low as 14 percent of normal schedules on March 13 and as high as 31 percent of normal schedules on March 12.
The distress on community members was the consequence of the dispute, but both parties regret displacing passengers.
“I’m deeply sorry for what we had to put the passengers through. We had to do it to take care of our families. We were tired of getting the shaft,” Paulson said.
“We thank Mayor Stanton, City Council and City Staff for their leadership and efforts to get our community moving again,” Veolia officials said.
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