A shuttle strike called Tuesday afternoon is affecting how Sky Harbor passengers get to and from the airport.
The Amalgamated Transit Union said Tuesday that the members of Local 1433 working for Veolia Transportation at the Rental Car Center have rejected Veolia's "last, best and final offer."
Picketers began gathering at Veolia's headquarters at 24th Street and Buckeye Road at 5 p.m., said Union President Bob Bean.
"Veolia is trying to starve the drivers with wages, benefits and working conditions," Bean explained.
Bean said 146 workers who drive shuttle buses from Sky Harbor Airport terminals to the off-site rental car location across 24th Street and the west economy parking lot are on strike. Some drivers chose to finish their shift before going on strike, while some just walked off, he said.
Also striking are about 22 curbside Ambassadors.
"We've made contingency plans and fully intend to meet our contractual obligations to keep service operating," said Michael Brown, general manager of Veolia's airport transportation service. "We remain open to meeting with the union; however, we have made every effort to provide a fair and balanced offer to our employees."
Bean said Veolia has insisted that Ambassadors pay more for their family healthcare than what they earn in wages per month. Other open issues include wages, duration, attendance, holidays, discipline, sick leave, bidding procedures, accidents/incidents, accident review board and vacations, Bean said.
"They (Veolia) don't treat us like we are the backbone of their operations, and we are," said striking Veolia bus driver Carole Mullins. "They are here because of the drivers."
Bean also claims Veolia tried to strong-arm employees into accepting their contract by threatening to pull retroactive pay increases off the table, they didn't.
"We did decide that if they didn't even vote to ratify the contract, or vote on the ratification, that we would pull the retroactivity portion of our offer," said Brown, who insists that wasn't a threat.
Brown said he is open to meeting with the union, which wants to resume talks as soon as possible - considering these employees have been working without a contract for a year to a year and a half.
"Whether or not we go back to the table, it doesn't mean there's going to be more concessions," explained Brown. "It just means that we're willing to talk."
Sky Harbor spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said Veolia has a contingency plan and buses are continuing to run between terminals and the Rental Car Center. She said there may be an additional wait time of up to 15 minutes or more.
The airport has passed along some suggestions for passengers:
If you're renting or returning a car, allow an extra 10 to 15 minutes for travel between the airport and the Rental Car Center.
Passengers flying out of Terminal 2 or 3 should book Prepaid Discount Parking and use the terminal garages at more than 40 percent off the regular price.
Terminal 4 customers can either park in East Economy and take the PHX Sky Train to the terminal or use Prepaid Discount Parking and park in the Terminal 4 garage.
Take advantage of free Early Bag Check at the Rental Car Center, East Economy Parking or the 44th and Washington streets PHX Sky Train station.
If you need to transfer between terminals, allow an extra 10 to 15 minutes for additional stops.
Arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight departs.
Call Valley Metro Customer Service at 602-253-5000.
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