Teamsters strike against Sun Tran may go on for a while

Published: Aug. 21, 2015 at 9:29 PM MST|Updated: Oct. 16, 2015 at 11:26 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Teamsters Local 104 Union's prediction that the Sun Tran bus strike may go on for weeks, not days, is coming closer to reality.

The strike is now in its 16th day and there are still no talks scheduled.

According to Teamsters Spokesman Andrew Marshall, "the federal mediator called me at 8:20 this morning and reiterated again there's no proposal from Sun Tran other than its firm and final agreement that we rejected Aug. 1."

That offer, which would cost $2.7 million over three years, was rejected by 363 no to 4 yes votes.

Sun Tran officials have said there are "options and opportunities" in the original proposal, but has not made a new offer.

A Sun Tran spokesperson said "we've been in touch with the mediator all week to try to find a way to get the Teamster's back to the table."

Marshall told Tucson News Now more than a week ago that its demands could be settled for between $5.7 and $7.7 million over the life of the three-year contract.

Sun Tran said those figures are too low, and its analysis puts the figure at $11 million, and is "economically not feasible."

Teamsters officials said the sides are not that far apart and if they figure in what Sun Tran is saving in unpaid wages and benefits, they are in the ballpark.

Teamsters officials said the bus system is saving $800,000 a week, a figure which has been disputed, but Sun Tran has not released an estimated weekly savings to counter the charge.

It may not be as high as the Teamsters estimate, because the system is running only 20 percent and is not getting its normal fare recovery.

Marshall says the $800,000 includes wages and benefits, but does not include fuel and maintenance which he said would increase the savings.

But with limited routes, only 8 of 43 running, Sun Tran is likely saving some of the $30 million the city gives annually to run the routes.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild told Tucson News Now there are "some savings," which could be utilized towards a settlement.

Other Teamsters locals are stepping up to help.

A group of UPS Teamsters members took up a collection to buy food, water, drinks and other household items for the strikers.

They said they would do it every week of the strike.

The strikers said they are getting $150 every two weeks as part of a strike fund stipend.

It's not enough to live on, but enough to buy a bit of food, they added.

On Monday, students from the University of Arizona will return to school, which will add another frustration for the riders.

Some students said without a bus, their walk will be about a half an hour. Others said they will bum rides from friends.

Sun Tran officials said some of the more popular routes will be running but on a limited time schedule.

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