Veolia Transportation Finally Reaches Contract Agreement With Teamsters; Two Unions Down, One to Go
The transit company and union leaders had been at odds since Veolia snagged its latest five-year contract on to operate buses in Phoenix.
The strained negotiations came to a close on December 3, but it took nearly six months of talks, two protests by union workers, a lock-out that forced employees off the job for 11 days, and union reps ultimately traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet face-to-face with top-level Veolia executives.
The good news for the Teamsters is that Veolia is paying employees for each of the 11 work days they missed when the company locked them off the job site.
A pricey concession for the transit company, considering it also paid the wages and rooming expenses for the out-of-town replacement workers on standby to do the jobs of the locked out employees. But, Veolia took a gamble in locking out workers when union leaders were still willing to negotiate.
The word was that Veolia hoped that locking out the Teamsters, the smallest of the three unions for Veolia workers, would prompt a strike. If they formed a picket line, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the largest union which represents the bus drivers, had already pledged they would not cross it. With union workers on strike, Veolia would get to put to use its replacement employees as the company waited for union workers to grow weary of being on strike.
Union leaders called Veolia's bluff and did not strike. Instead, they filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, in part because Veolia declared an impasse in labor talks when employee reps were still willing to talk. Veolia promptly called an end to the lockout and allowed employees back on the job.
Union members approved the new contract terms, which also included workers getting paid for 100 percent of their unused sick leave, a benefit non-union workers didn't get. Negotiators for the Teamsters also strictly limited the work Veolia can outsource, which gives workers the job protection they wanted.
A couple months ago, the transit company reached contract agreements with the International Union of Operating Engineers, the union that represents the bus mechanics.
Under their agreement, employees keep their current pay and only get paid for 35 of their accrued sick days, according to a report by Fox 10.
Veolia and the ATU are still trying to hammer out a deal.