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Phoenix bus drivers go on strike but sides return to table

(KTAR Photo/Jim Cross)

PHOENIX — Hundreds of Phoenix bus drivers voted Thursday night to go on strike at midnight after rejecting a proposed deal with a city-contracted transit company but the sides were back at the bargaining table late Friday morning.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, the union that represents the drivers, said two days of voting was completed Thursday night, when 91 percent of members rejected a deal offered by public transit organization Transdev.

Representatives for the drivers said it had hopes of reaching a settlement before the day was over, although the group claimed online that Transdev deliberately gave them short notice about a desire to meet again.

Thousands of residents were scrambling to find a way to work and go about their daily routines Friday.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton told KTAR Arizona’s Morning News that the sides needed to get back to the table as soon as possible.

“Tens of thousands of people use these bus lines,” he said. “…to go about the things they need to do to advance their daily lives.”

In a tweet, Stanton had said the strike was disappointing.

He reiterated his disappointment and even stronger feelings Friday morning. “Yes, I’m very angry about the situation,” he told show hosts Jim Sharpe and Jayme West.

The strike disrupted bus service to 34 routes in Phoenix, many of them major. Thousands of college football fans were expected to be in the city leading up to Monday night’s national championship game in suburban Glendale.

Light rail was not affected.

City Transit Department spokesman Lars Jacoby said the city hoped service can be resumed by Monday on two routes serving the stadium.

Phoenix Union High School District said it would help its students get to school during the strike. Ten schools were affected.

Bus 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 were offering a fair contract providing a 3 percent annual wage increase retroactive to July, if accepted without a work stoppage.

Union officials originally called for a strike at midnight Monday after contract talks stalled. But both sides returned to the negotiation table Tuesday and bus service operated normally during the voting period.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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