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Bus Drivers say uniforms, break time are the top issues in strike threat

PHOENIX –  Phoenix bus drivers may be on the verge of a strike.  They talked about their grievances during a rally at Phoenix city hall on Tuesday.

The drivers are upset about the lack of break time, and some complain that they don’t even get enough time to go to the bathroom.

Bob Bean of the Amalgamated Transit union says uniforms are also an issue.

“They want to take away the uniform allowance that’s been in the Phoenix contract for the last 20 plus years and put in a uniform voucher in there for you all to use,” said Bean.  Bean said that means that the drivers would be spending more of their own money on the uniforms.

Bean said that money isn’t an issue with the current negotiations, but he doesn’t like a threat that he says is being made by negotiators for Transdev, the company that employs the drivers and runs the buses.  “(The company says) If you don’t accept this wage package by October 15th, or if you go on strike, we will drop the wage offer from 3 percent to 2.5 percent.  That’s outright blackmail,” Bean said.

Meanwhile, bus rider Dominic Christian said that she will stop riding the bus and support the drivers if they go on strike.

“I am a mother.  I do ride the bus on a daily basis.  I will support you guys if you guys do go on strike, and I will stop riding the buses,” Christian said.

She said that the drivers are not being treated fairly.  “You guys do deserve to be treated a little better.  You guys do deal with a lot on a daily basis that a lot of people don’t deal or see.”

Christian, who is pregnant, uses both the bus and the light rail to commute from 10th Avenue and Hatcher in Phoenix to her job as a telemarketer in Mesa.  She said that if the bus drivers go on strike, she’ll find another way to get around.

“I’ll carpool with someone if I have to,” she said.  When she was asked by a reporter “What about people that can’t do that?,” Christian replied, “I’m sure they’ll lose their jobs.  That’s if they (the bus riders) decide to stick with the strike or not.  Me and those people are different.  I’m sticking to my word.”

Amalgamated Transit Union Representative Michael Cornelius hopes that a strike can be avoided.  “Nobody wants a strike.  Nobody does.  But if we have to walk, we have to walk.  We want a fair contract,” he said.

The drivers represented by the union have voted and 95 percent gave the okay to the strike.  Cornelius said that he thinks a strike is likely, but he did not know when it would start.  He said it could happen as early as Friday evening.

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