Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bus Strike: City Denies Sun Tran 'Replacement Employees' Ads, Ensures (Again) It Cannot Intervene

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 4:46 PM

click to enlarge MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena

The City of Tucson reasserted time and time again at a press conference this afternoon that they cannot stick their hands in negotiations between Sun Tran and the Teamsters Local Union 104. City Manager Michael Ortega also said that the city isn't saving nearly as much money as the Teamsters allege for every day the strike goes on. And, as far as the Craigslist ads to search for replacement employees out of state, not much came out but a few words to deny said action. 

As far as the ads go, Andy Marshall, head of the Teamsters, says Sun Tran had confirmed hiring a separate company to take care of placing ads online to hire temporary employees. As the Weekly reported earlier, Sun Tran denies the accusations. 

(We thought we'd ask again later in the day, but Sun Tran stood by their previous answer.)

"Sun Tran did not place ads on Craigslist. Sun Tran has a contract with the City of Tucson and is obligated to provide bus service to the community," Sun Tran spokesperson Kandi Young told the Weekly in an email. "Sun Tran has contracted with an outside vendor to provide a small number of coach operators to fulfill its contractual obligations. The cost for the temporary drivers to provide limited service will not exceed the transit adopted budget."

Marshall said Sun Tran had already hired 15 workers via those ads, all of which mysteriously disappeared from Craigslist this morning. This is an unfair labor practice strike, which means Sun Tran is prohibited from firing and replacing any of the 530 bus drivers, mechanics and others picketing.

"The Democratic Party has always supposedly been labor friendly, for this City Council and mayor and city manager to be aware of the fact that Sun Tran is trying to bring in out of state temporary replacement workers, and pay them huge amounts of money is ludicrous. I don't know if (the city) instructed Sun Tran to stop that, but the ads were pulled this morning," he said after witnessing the city press conference, which completely underwhelmed him. 

City's Involvement

Marshall also called out the city's repetitive remarks about not being able to get involved with negotiations, saying the mayor and City Council "absolutely" have the authority to instruct the city manager to instruct the city's Department of Transportation to instruct Sun Tran "to do whatever they need to do" to help end the strike. (What's happened thus far is Sun Tran made a new proposal that the Teamsters said was way, way worse than the one that started this whole thing. Marshall doesn't see that as being willing to resolve any issues.)

"Our relationship with Transdev (you know, the company based out of France that oversees Sun Tran) is one of professional obligation," Ortega said, after City Attorney Mike Rankin reminded people that Sun Tran employees are not city employees, and therefore. by law, the city cannot intervene. Plus, city employees do not have the right to strike, whereas company's like Transdev and Professional Transit Management, which get funds from the federal government, have the obligation to allow their workers to strike, otherwise the feds would cut off funding.

"The mayor and council in particular cannot be involved in the labor negotiations," Rankin said.

Ortega said he's repeatedly suggested Transdev, and by association PTM, that they need to get back on the table and make sure the strike is resolved as fast as possible, and that Transdev has assured him that they are willing and have encouraged discussions with the Teamsters.  

Savings

Since the strike began, the Teamsters have reported Sun Tran saves roughly $750,000 for every week the picketing remains, because none of the workers protesting are getting paid. Ortega says that number is actually $145,000 based on other expenses the city has had to tackle during these past 28 days (on which, again, Marshall calls bullshit).

And, what does he think about the strike nearing 30 days?

"We actually went into this with the members knowing this was going to be a battle of wills, and that they were going to try to break the union," he said. "The fact that everybody has held strong is a testament to the solidarity...It is extremely hard on our members. They are not making any money, they have been out of a job for a month. To try to survive, and all the pressure in that, we are doing everything we can to insist, trying to get everybody back to the table."

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