Bus Union Contracts Extended To Sept 30; Transit Company Pushes For Worker Wage Cuts While Upping Execs' Pay and Perks

No deal has yet been reached between Veolia Transportation, the company that operates Phoenix city buses, and the three unions that represent its employees.

They have extended their contracts through September 30, pushing back further the possibility of a bus strike.

Negotiations continue with Veolia negotiators wanting to slash workers' compensation as much as 40 percent, eliminate most of their accrued sick leave, and create a lower pay scale for new employees.

Union reps are resisting. One might leap to the conclusion that Veolia is proposing such drastic, unavoidable cuts to stay afloat during tough economic times.

But that isn't the picture that Andy Marshall, an executive officer with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 104, painted for the Phoenix City Council on Tuesday.

He told elected officials that while Veolia was asking employees to take major pay cuts, it has increased the salaries for local executives in charge of the Phoenix city-bus contract.

New Times asked Veolia spokeswoman Erica Swerdlow for comment earlier today, but hasn't yet heard back.

It isn't that Veolia is hurting for money, rather that it low-balled its bid for the Phoenix contract to make sure they landed it, and is now trying to make up the difference on the backs of employees, Marshall said.

Non-union employees already lost about 40 percent of their pay, had to give up about $600,000 worth of accrued sick leave, had to reapply for their jobs and sign a legal document promising they would not sue Veolia to recover any of their lost benefits.

Meanwhile, Veolia's previous general manager in Phoenix made $134,000. Under Veolia's newly awarded city-bus contract, the general manager now pockets $180,000, plus a $15,000 bonus, a free apartment in Phoenix and plane tickets every other weekend to fly home to Las Vegas.

Veolia added two new assistant general managers that earn a combined $240,000.

Veolia's former maintenance manager made $85,000, but the new person in that position gets $158,000, plus a $15,000 annual pension payment and a company car.

He also said that Veolia included a clause in one proposed contract that would allow it to outsource employees' jobs at its discretion. Even as Veolia executives are in the midst of negotiations, they have already solicited bids from other transportation companies and told labor leaders that if they didn't agree to Veolia's terms by September 30, they would simply bring in new workers.

"This isn't about money," Marshall said. "It's about our job security."