as of October 27, 2011
On October 26, 2011 ATU members from
First Transit voted and ratified a new three (3) year collective bargaining agreement.
The new agreement increases wages and benefits, improves working conditions and was negotiated in good faith by both
sides. As a result of the good faith at the bargaining table, we were able to
reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial to First Transit, the ATU and ultimately the riders who rely on us every day
to go to work and safely move them around the City.
We are still negotiating over the terms
of the expired collective bargaining agreement and actually had reached a full tentative agreement until MV representatives
claimed a misunderstanding in the language. That misunderstanding resulted in
the tentative agreement being revoked in favor of continued bargaining.
We have set a date with Veolia Mesa
to negotiate the terms and conditions of the collective agreement now set to expire at the end of the year. If Veolia's recent conduct at the table with Tempe and Phoenix are any sign of things to come, I must report
that I am not optimistic that settlement can be reached without the same type of fight that we are in on the other properties. The ATU will enter those negotiations with an open mind, we will have full proposals
based on the requests of its members and we will do everything in our power to reach a fair settlement to the Mesa agreement.
Veolia has given us little to work
with at Tempe. Their strange actions are indicative of an overall attempt to
gradually reduce wages and benefits of their employees nationwide, for higher corporate profit. At Tempe, Veolia may be headed for additional board charges for some of the tactics at the bargaining table
and charges have been already filed for their tactics away from the bargaining table, such as suspending a union rep that
is on the negotiating committee without cause. As they have done around the nation
(except in Vegas and I will get to that) and in Canada, Veolia has refused to bargain and demanded wage and benefit concessions
under the assumption that they economy is bad for them and therefore their employees must share in the burden. I will come back to that as well. The ATU will continue to
be the front line against this attack on the American work force by this foreign invader.
We meet with Veolia Tempe again on November 2, 2011 and will again attempt to settle the agreement but again I am not
optimistic that their corporate strategy will change without a court order.
ATU met with Veolia representatives
on October 24, 2011 at which time they again stated to us that they will impose their best and final. This time, they gave us a date of November 28, 2011. New charges
will be filed against Veolia for bad faith bargaining, direct dealing, refusal to bargain and violation of the settlement
agreement that they signed with the Federal Government that said they would not do what they did on October 24th. I believe that we can get a court order to block Veolia from further violations of the law and I also believe
that they have violated the terms of their contract with the City of Phoenix and our attorneys will be soon addressing those
issues with the City attorneys.
To come back to Las Vegas, Veolia has
now signed an agreement with drivers in Vegas giving some employees an increase in wages of 15.4% and other employees a 21.8%
increase. Here in Phoenix and Tempe they are only offering freezes and the last
time I checked the economy in Nevada is worse than here. That takes me to Veolia's
claim of a shared burden. Veolia is a private contractor based in France. Veolia is completely un-affected by the economy due to their huge agreement with the
City(s) respectively. Veolia violated procurement rules to get the Phoenix contract
and tried to do the same in Vegas by buying employees support for their battle for the almost BILLION dollar Vegas city contract.
How will you be affected as riders?
The bus operators made a commitment
to you over a year ago that a strike is ONLY a last resort. The drivers have
honored that commitment by not striking. They have endured an employer who has
been unlawfully conducting its business, they have endured the fear of not knowing how they will pay their bills, they have
stuck it out and so should you. You should honor the fact that they have continued
to work and have allowed the legal battles to play out. We will keep the buses
rolling until we do hit the end of the line. You CAN help prevent this. You as a citizen can log on to the City of Phoenix website and read the Veolia city
contract and see for yourself how bad the economy is for them. After you pick
up your jaw at the enormity of their city agreement, call the city transit department, call the city manager, call the mayor
and council and demand that they hold Veolia accountable for their actions.
I will try to keep everyone updated
on the legal battles and negotiations as we get through Veolia's games and conduct.
-Michael L. Cornelius
We have been
getting emails and calls asking for an explanation as to how we have come to this point with Veolia Transportation. To be as responsive as we can, I will try and outline the issues as I go on.
On January 29,
2010 Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 sent out a request to bargain of the contract that was set to expire on June 30,
2011. The Union was prepared to negotiate the agreement six (6) months prior
to the expiration. However, Veolia would not meet with the Union until mid-June
due to the issues between the City and Veolia.
The City of Phoenix and Veolia:
In 2009 the
City of Phoenix decided to send out an "RFP" or "Request for Proposals" due to the fact that Veolia's city contract was set
to expire. The city did not want to lose federal funding again, so they were
very careful to bid the contract out. Several years ago, the City lost federal
assistance when they gave a no bid contract to a transit provider, Veolia Transportation.
Ultimately the contract to operate transit services out of the North and South facilities was awarded to Veolia Transportation. Veolia's contract is for $388,000,000 according to "Section 2 Compensation (a)" of
the City contract with Veolia, #128473. Veolia and the City could not agree on
sick time and pension liability, even though all of the bidders were told that those two (2) issues were not part of the procurement
process. In order to settle the issue, the City agreed to give Veolia an additional
$28,000,000, which was settled in a document titled "Settlement Agreement and Release" that was approved by the Phoenix City
Council on May 19, 2010. It has been alleged that there was some improprieties
by the Mayor regarding how Veolia was awarded this contract and his personal relationship to a Veolia consultant. The Federal Transit Administration is apparently conducting an investigation.
There was no
legitimate reason for Veolia to fail to meet with the Union during the six (6) month period that they spent milking Phoenix
taxpayers for $28,000,000 more. So, Veolia was awarded a contract worth $388,000,000
dollars, also received $28,000,000 dollars for sick time and pension liability and on top of that they also receive over a
12% (according to "Exhibit B Fee Schedule") increase during the term. If that
was not good enough, the City agreed to waive any fine for a strike during the first round of negotiations, taking away any
incentive for Veolia to bargain in good faith with the Union(s).
Veolia and the ATU:
finally found the time to meet with the ATU, things started off well. We were
meeting with a Regional guy who negotiates their contracts for them. When Veolia
decided to try and force concessions on the drivers and bargain in bad faith, their Regional guy wanted nothing to do with
it and quit. Veolia then brought in attorneys, who did not have the conscience
that their former employee had. These attorneys took several days to get brought
up to speed and then Veolia fired one of them. At that time Veolia brought in
the attorney that got them involved in the "unfair labor practices" and who caused all of the issues that we now have. He unlawfully locked out the Teamsters who fuel and clean the buses, in an attempt
to force a strike of all employees. It was the Union's, the ATU, the Teamsters
and the Operating Engineers who refused to take the bait...and we kept working. We
kept working because of our commitment to the riding public. We knew that Veolia's
game was a set up and we did not fall for it. Veolia would actually increase
their profit on a labor strike. Not only would they not get fined by the city,
they would pay no payroll, no insurance premiums, etc.
The ATU finally
became so upset with Veolia's refusal to bargain and "Unfair Labor Practices" that we filed a complaint with the National
Labor Relations Board, which is an independent governmental agency that is charged with investigating and issuing remedies
for "Unfair Labor Practices" committed by Employers and Unions. To be fair, Veolia
also filed charges against the ATU, all of which were dismissed, even after several appeals by Veolia's high paid attorney. On the other hand, the NLRB upheld every claim that the Union had filed against Veolia. Veolia has recently posted a notice on the property that states that they will not
engage in the unlawful activity that they have been engaged in over the course of the previous year.
on the Phoenix property under the expired contract could accumulate a maximum of one hundred and forty-four (144) days sick
leave. (Remember, the City gave Veolia $28 million to cover sick leave and pension) Veolia only bargained that the Union must give up all sick time above thirty-five
(35) days. They did that for months and that would be asking these workers, who
have spent years earning that time to give it back. Employees don't earn sick
time unless they come to work and to earn 144 days at 12 per year and employee would have to have worked for twelve (12) years
with good attendance. Going from 144 days to 35 would have been a loss of 109
sick days paid at $22.41 per hour or a total loss of $19,541.52. What will Veolia
do with that money; they will mark it as profit and send it to France, which is where they are headquartered. The Union made a difficult decision and agreed to reduce that one hundred and forty-four (144) days to
sixty (60) days, which would coincide with an employees need for FMLA. That was
a concession to Veolia of eighty-four (84) days per employee at $22.41 per hour or a total profit to Veolia of $15,059.52
per employee. That was just not good enough for Veolia and the issue now is cash
out. For over twenty years, Veolia has cashed out employee sick time at retirement. This is exactly why employees earn the sick time and come to work and build up that
bank, because it helps them enter into retirement. After being paid twenty-eight
(28) million to fund sick time and pension liability, Veolia has refused to pay out to retiring employees what they have spent
a lifetime building.
Veolia is only
proposing a wage freeze for the first year of the contract, that would account to three years of no wage increases to the
employees (they have now gone 2 years with no increase). Veolia is also attempting
to set up a two-tier wage structure that if allowed to happen will, over time, reduce the overall wages for all employees
by twenty (20) percent. While Veolia is enjoying huge economic profits off of
the taxpayers, they are refusing to share those profits, even slightly, with their employees.
Well, except for the CEO whose personal salary is $2,208,858 per year and their local management team. The salary of Veolia’s general manager in Phoenix was recently increased from $134,000 to $180,000. He also gets a $15,000 bonus, a free apartment, and plane tickets every other weekend
to fly home to Las Vegas. The company has also added two new Phoenix assistant
general managers who earn a combined $240,000. Veolia is a foreign corporation
whose U.S. transportation division generated $1,400,000,000 (that is 1.4 BILLION) last year.
The Union agreed
to move into Veolia's corporate health care plan. Five (5) years ago, the employees
(NOT VEOLIA) agreed to give up a 1.15% wage increase and apply that to a health care contribution for employees with dependents. The Union has only proposed to continue that contribution rate (a contribution that
the employees made, instead of taking in wages) at the 1.15%. That was a known
cost to Veolia, but they want to cut that in half and pocket the difference. Again,
they are only looking to profit out of the wallets of their employees.
The Union has
never, not one time requested any additional time for vacation. Veolia has only
proposed less vacation time.
Veolia has only
proposed a five (5) year contract. That would be five (5) years of worsening
Operators wages and benefits. The ATU International President has told Veolia's
CEO that the ATU cannot authorize a contract that will go over three (3) yeas.
Unfair Labor Practice:
Veolia has recently
conceded to over a year of bad faith bargaining. They have tried time and time
again to force the bus drivers out on strike, with never any intent to reach a settlement.
Their only goal in these negotiations is to profiteer.
Back in 1976
the City of Phoenix, Veolia (then known as Phoenix Transit) and the ATU entered into an agreement required under Section 13(c)
of the Urban Mass Transit Act" of 1964. Among other things, the agreement requires
that an employer not worsen the working conditions of transit employees unilaterally.
We can give up vacation time and sick time, but they cannot impose it. Now
that Veolia has identified that they plan to impose a worsening on us, we will file a claim against the recipient of Federal
funds who is the City of Phoenix.
There you have
it and these are primarily all of the issues between the ATU and Veolia. What
we want the public to know is that we are not being greedy simply by asking to keep what we already have. What we want the public to know is that the Operators who drive you every day have simply refused time
and time again to strike. They have made it clear to the Union that they will
only walk off of the job as a last resort, when no other alternative can be reached.
When we last met with Veolia, we offered to enter into binding arbitration with them.
Binding arbitration would have avoided a strike and a third party neutral arbitrator would have decided the outcome. What was Veolia's response? NO!
At this time,
we are again trying to avoid a strike, but Veolia is again pushing for it. We
are not sure what other options we are left with. Veolia, even though they only
recently stated in a posting through the NLRB that they will bargain with us, are now refusing to bargain and have told us
that they will impose these worsening's on us.
If you want to help avoid a strike,
contact the Mayor, contact your City Council Representative, contact the City Manager’s Office and contact the Public
Transit Department and demand that this foreign company end their unlawful actions and bargain with the Union to reach a legitimate
contract, one that is actually fair to both side and not simply to make the rich richer.
Michael L. Cornelius
Amalgamated Transit Union
Bill McLean on Veolia's decision to impose their "best and final"