Striking bus drivers continue to picket Friday near Rio Salado Parkway and Priest Drive in Tempe. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
Bus drivers in the Phoenix area remained adamant about continuing their strike until an agreement is reached on what they would define as a "fair contract" that provides them with job security.
The drivers went on strike at midnight Thursday, stranding about 57,000 riders along 40 routes, mostly in East Valley and southeast Valley cities.
Driver James Washington said he heard there was "movement" in the talks and seemed somewhat optimistic that a quick resolution could be reached.
Negotiators for the Amalgamated Transit Union and operator First Transit met Friday morning, providing some optimism.
The strike shut down routes in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe and express routes from those cities to Scottsdale and Phoenix. It represents about half the total routes in the Valley.
ATU Local 1433 president Bob Bean said there was optimism an agreement will be reached.
The union said the company provided a new offer on a key issue - job security.
Jen Biddinger, a First Transit spokeswoman, acknowledged the sides were making progress.
Until an agreement is reached, however, drivers are willing to stay on the picket lines for as long as it takes, said operator Connie Kryger.
Kryger said she has been driving for First Transit, the company that operates buses for the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority, for about nine years. She claims the company is being stubborn because it knew the union would reject its latest contract proposal.
She said the initial contract provides backward steps in pay and working conditions.
"It wasn't livable at all," she said.
"We want a fair contract. It's not only about money, it's about the working conditions, also," Kryger said.
"Now we have this union and before, if they were going to fire me or her they would have to go before the union. Now, they want the chance to just fire us," Kryger said.
She said that under the proposed contract "they can fire me because they don't like my pink shirt or fire her for her blonde hair. That's just not right. And that's what we're fighting for - our rights."
Kryger asked the public to be patient with the union.
"We are truly, truly sorry," she said. "We don't want to be out here picketing. We're losing money, also."
"And we're not the bad guys. Don't hate us. They really don't like us drivers. We get cussed out, spit on, stabbed and threatened on a daily basis," Kryger said.
Another driver, identified only as Amy, said, "As soon as we get a good contract we're going to be out there and we're going to move the city."
"We want to work," Amy said. "It's not that we don't want to work, we just can't work under these conditions."
Copyright 2013 CBS 5(Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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