Hundreds of bus drivers overwhelming rejected a contract proposal, setting the stage for a midnight strike that will shut down service in several Phoenix-area cities.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 represents about 400 drivers. Transit-union leaders rejected a final offer Monday from bus company operator First Transit and say 95 percent of the drivers voted against the proposed contract Wednesday.
"If you look at the healthcare and say wow there's progress in healthcare but it says, management can take it away, and then you look at wages and you say they're good but management rights are they can take it away from you," says Michael Cornelius, lead negotiator for the union. "We're not asking for money we're asking that they not strip of us our rights."
A strike will stop bus service on 40 routes in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert plus some routes in Scottsdale and Ahwatukee Foothills, and express service from those communities to downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale.
First Transit operates buses for the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority.
Union officials say drivers were asked to accept significant hikes in health-care contributions and Valley Metro RPTA wanted greater rights to fire union members.
"We've been talking with our passengers we've been trying to communicate with them asking them to prepare to try to find a ride with a friend a neighbor a coworker, you know, try to get themselves prepared for alternate travel, try to work from home, telecommute if your boss allows it, you know, do what you can to get yourself to your job. We understand that's of primary importance, a lot of people have been commenting they need to get to work," says Susan Tierney.
Valley Metro Light Rail service will not be affected.
Video: FOX 10's Ty Brennan has more from bus riders who are put out by the impending strike.
Statement by First Transit:
We are disappointed in the decision by the union and regret that we have been unable to reach an agreement.
We presented several offers which are fair and equitable, especially considering current economic conditions. Our offer included significant improvement in premium costs specific to employees who select coverage for their spouses and families. We value each of our employees, and appreciate the focus and commitment to safety they bring to their positions each day.
We will contact the federal mediator to determine why the offer was rejected and to explore additional discussions with the union in an attempt to avoid a strike.
We sincerely regret the inconvenience this will have on passengers.
FLASH, MERCURY, VENUS, EARTH, MARS, JUPITER, BUZZ, LINK—Main St., LINK—Arizona Ave., 30, 40, 45, 48, 56, 61, 62, 65, 66, 72, 77, 81, 96, 104, 108, 112, 120, 128, 136, 156, 184, 511, 514, 520, 521, 522, 531, 533, 535, 541 and 542.
Phoenix (30, 45, 48, 56, 61, 72, 77, 108, 156, 514, 520, 521, 522, 531, 533, 535, 541, 542) and Scottsdale (EARTH, 72, 81, 511, 514)
Other travel options: phoenix.gov/publictransit/index.html
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.