The tens of thousands of people who rely on Phoenix buses to get to and from work or around town every day can rest easier because the bus strike has been called off – at least for now.
With about 90 minutes left before 650 bus drivers were set to go on strike and "paralyze" transportation in the city by shutting down 75 percent of all bus lines, union leaders announced they were putting the strike "on hold" to give negotiations with the international transit company, Transdev, one more chance.
Discussions between Transdev and the local chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union about employee contracts have been frustrating and relatively unproductive during the past few months, union leaders say.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton appointed former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor to mediate the negotiations, but according to union leaders, even she couldn't get Transdev to budge.
Major sticking points include pay parity and benefits for all drivers, bereavement pay, and, believe it or not, bathroom breaks.
“Many operators wear diapers because they can’t use the bathroom regularly,” Michael Cornelius, head negotiator for ATU said at a recent press conference.
He and others involved say, throughout the talks, Transdev has refused to negotiate on any important or "substantive" issues.
According to Cornelius, a strike would cost the city millions of dollars and would most likely adversely affect transportation to and from the College Football National Championship in Glendale next week.
The strike was announced Monday evening, and supposed to go into effect at midnight, but according to local civil rights leader, Reverend Jarrett Maupin – who has been involved in the negotiations on behalf of the drivers – late-night talks seemed to be moving forward, and there were “encouraging” improvements in “morale.”
That said, in a statement released last night, ATU International Vice President Bob Hykaway explained that while the union “has placed a hold on pending strike actions,” it “remains ready, at a moment's notice, to take action if negotiations deteriorate."
An estimated 75 percent of all Phoenix bus lines, particularly those in high traffic areas, would have been affected by the strike:
**This article has been updated to reflect the latest information