Phoenix City Council Delays Vote (Again) on Whether to Give Veolia Transportation a Break on Fines for Poor Performance

The Phoenix City Council has yet again postponed making a decision on whether to give Veolia Transportation, a company that operates city buses, a pass on fines assessed for poor performance.

Vice Mayor Michael Johnson made a motion to withdraw the item, and the council agreed 8 to 1. Councilman Jim Waring voted against withdrawing the item, asking during the meeting why the council didn't just deal with it.

The transit company has to pay fines to the city when it doesn't meet certain performance measures, including when buses are late, unkempt or simply don't show up to bus stops.

Waring said during the meeting that the only reason it wasn't getting voted on was because the "powers that be" didn't have the votes to get the measure passed. He said it was likely that item was just going to come back when Veolia execs did have the votes.

Veolia executives' request for a pass on the fines first appeared on the January 4 agenda. It was bumped to the January 18, bumped again to today's meeting. This time, by withdrawing the item, it appears the discussion is being continued indefinitely.

Michael Cornelius, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, the union representing bus drivers, told the council that the city should not give any more "special treatment to a foreign company."

For an hour prior to the City Council meeting, dozens of members of ATU marched around the council chamber in protest of Veolia's request.

The drivers' contract expired on June 30, 2010, and while there have been a few contract extensions, the on again, off again negotiations between employees' union reps and corporate executives have gone nowhere.

This hasn't been a good week for Veolia.

Aside from the City Council repeatedly delaying Veolia's request, sources tell New Times that the National Labor Relations Board, a federal body responsible for protecting organized employees' rights, delivered a win for the ATU.

The NLRB apparently informed Veolia that it had issued several complaints against the French transit company for, among other things, negotiating in bad faith, going around union officials and dealing directly with employees, declaring there was an impasse when there wasn't and for imposing a contract on union members that workers hadn't approved.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo