Nearly all of the Phoenix bus drivers who turned out to vote on a labor contract proposed by Veolia Transportation rejected their offer and authorized a strike.
96 percent of voters said 'thanks, but no thanks' to Veolia's "best and final offer", which comes after about a year of labor negotiations.
Union officials report that nearly all of their 545 members cast a ballot, and say there has never been a greater turnout in the union's history.
For now, it's "return to work as normal" for bus driver as officers of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents Valley bus drivers, wait to hear back from Veolia executives.
ATU leaders just fired off a letter to Barrick Neil, regional vice president of Veolia's Phoenix operations, and let them know that its members overwhelmingly turned down the contract and that they are willing to head back to the negotiating table.
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"We sent this request to Veolia in good faith to go back to the negotiating table and settle this contact," Michael Cornelius, vice president of ATU tells New Times. "However, if they are unwilling to come back to the bargaining table, we will strike."
As they wait, since members have sanctioned a strike, the union president Bob Bean is in communication with the union's international president to get strike approval.
"We don't want to strike, and abandon the people of Arizona who rely on public
transportation to get to and from work, school, and other daily tasks," Bean said in a press release sent out just after the vote results were made public. "We stand ready to negotiate a fair contract, but we cannot accept an agreement in which we make less five years from now than we do today."
One of the contract provisions rejected by bus drivers would spread a 3% wage
increase over the next five years, while increasing their health insurance premiums
more than that, resulting in a net loss.