Veolia Transportation Continues Negotiating with Two Labor Unions, Locks Out Teamsters but Hopes to Resolve Issues

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About 60 transit employees remain locked out of Phoenix bus facilities after Veolia Transportation declared on Sunday that negotiations with labor reps reached an impasse.

A lock-out isn't the same thing as a strike, and so far, buses are still operating as usual.

It's not business as usual for employees represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 104. Their jobs have been taken over by non-union workers.

The Teamsters' (bus maintenance workers) contract expired on Sunday at midnight, and that's when workers were escorted off the job site.

"We didn't feel that there was any movement in the negotiations (with the Teamsters)," Veolia Communications Director Val Michael told New Times.

She also said the Teamsters did not honor "the no strike, no picket clause in their contract," which played a role in the company's lock-out decision.

Michael is referring to two demonstrations that members of the Teamsters participated in outside of Phoenix City Hall and the Hyatt in Tempe, the hotel where Veolia was putting up workers they'd flown in to replace union workers in case of a strike.

She said the Teamsters could have walked off the job at any time had they been granted another extension, so instead the company opted to lock them out.

Andy Marshall, an executive officer with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 104, said they engaged in a legal, informational demonstration in Phoenix and Tempe, not a picket line or strike.

As for movement in the contracts, Marshall says it was the union making all the concessions.

Interesting to note that the contracts for bus drivers, represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 1433, have also expired. And they marched, toting signs, right alongside the Teamsters during both demonstrations.

The 600 or so bus drivers, however, are still working and negotiating with Veolia.

Michael said that Veolia hasn't shut out ATU workers because they have been making progress on reaching contract agreements. She also noted that the ATU reps were at a national conference and hadn't been available to negotiate.

Marshall has another theory.

"I believe (Veolia's) whole strategy was to lock out employees of the smallest union, thinking we'd put up a picket line. And, since the other unions have already said they would honor it, Veolia thought they would be able to use all the replacement workers they've brought in."

Contracts with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 428, representing bus mechanics, have also expired. They, too, are still on the job.

Michael said Operating Engineers have agreed on a tentative contract and are expected to vote soon on whether to approve it.

As for the Teamsters, they say that Veolia is the one not negotiating in good faith and have since filed charges against the company with the National Labor Relations Board.

Marshall said he believes the Teamsters has a strong case.

While Michael said "we have gone as far as we can go" with the Teamsters, she is hopeful that they will get "back to the negotiating table and resolve these issues ... and arrive at contract."

Michael said that there have been several roadblocks to reaching agreements, but that the two most consistent have been not being able to agree on a two-tier wage system (where new employees earn less money) and how to address employees' accrued sick pay.

Marshall said those issues have already been addressed, and that the real sticking point is language in Veolia's proposed contract that would allow the company to outsource union jobs at its discretion.

"They are demanding the right to outsource our jobs," he said. "Why would I agree to that?"

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