The possibility of a bus strike looms over metro Phoenix even as Veolia Transportation executives and union leaders continue trying to hammer out labor agreements.
Contracts expire at midnight tonight for Veolia's maintenance staff, represented by Teamsters Local 104, and for Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 1433, which represents bus operators.
City officials report on a Strike Information Page that the ATU was in discussions to extend its contracts until October 10. It's unclear whether that will happen.
The International Union of Operating Engineers 428, the bus mechanics' union, has agreed to a new October 3 deadline.
Veolia has been placing ads in newspapers for replacement bus drivers in case of a strike. One ad listed on careerbuilder.com said jobs were "temporary positions with the opportunity for regular full-time position."
It's a move that has been criticized by workers, who say that by bringing in replacement employees, Veolia is not be negotiating in good faith. One of the issues on the table is whether employees will be able to keep about $6.2 million worth of accrued sick time.
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Veolia officials have said that they need to have a backup plan in case an agreement cannot be reached on contract terms.
Hiring backup employees is just one of the advantages that Veolia has over current employees in case of a strike. The other is that the company won't get hit with a daily $50,000 fine from Phoenix for each day workers on are on strike.
Phoenix agreed to waive those strike-related fines, also called liquidated damages, at the same time it conceded settling out a previous Veolia contract for $27.5 million. Phoenix also agreed not to pursue $681,000 worth of payments Phoenix claimed it erroneously made to Veolia.
Read more here about why Phoenix settled with Veolia and the role Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon played in that decision.