Phoenix bus drivers strike, idling most of city's buses
PHOENIX (AP) A Phoenix bus drivers union went on strike, idling buses on well over half of the city's routes Friday as the area gears up for the college football championship.
The strike began on affected routes at about 5 a.m. Friday when buses normally begin providing service for the morning commute, Public Transit Department spokesman Lars Jacoby said.
Transdev - a city-contracted transit company - said the drivers rejected the company's ''last and best offer,'' Jacoby said. An additional 20 routes operated by another company are not affected. Neither is light rail service.
Thousands of college football fans are expected to be in the city leading up to Monday night's national championship game between Clemson and Alabama in suburban Glendale.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 officials had called for a midnight Monday walkout after contract talks stalled. But both sides had returned to the negotiation table Tuesday.
''We are very disappointed that our operators are being instructed by ATU 1433 to strike,'' Transdev said in a news release. ''Our focus now will shift in preparing to provide valley riders with the service they have come to expect.''
Jacoby said his department will work with Transdev to provide contingency service on the 34 affected bus routes. He said that Transdev's contract requires them to run a reduced level of service, although doing so requires time for the company to get personnel trained and in place.
Jacoby said city officials hope service to two routes serving University of Phoenix Stadium, where the championship game will be played, can resume by Monday.
Union officials said sticking points in the negotiations include bereavement time and uniform allowances for the bus drivers plus a tiered payment system and vacation time.
Transdev officials said they offered a fair contract providing a 3 percent annual wage increase retroactive to July, if accepted without a work stoppage.
Negotiations began in April and resumed last month after a six-week hiatus.