/ Modified aug 10, 2015 4:40 p.m.

Municipal Bus Strike in 5th Day, No End in Sight

2 City Council members call on city transportation officials to get involved, saying they support drivers.

Sun Tran Workers Picket Line spotlight Sun Tran workers walk a picket line at Ronstadt Transit Center while on strike in August 2015. (PHOTO: Tim Munjak, AZPM)

Tucson's municipal bus strike was five days old Monday, with no break in sight and no negotiations scheduled.

City Council members Regina Romero and Paul Cunningham, both Democrats up for re-election in November, issued a statement saying they have asked city transportation officials to "devote immediate time and attention to resolving the Sun Tran strike."

Romero and Cunningham also said they recognize that under federal labor rules, they and other city officials cannot get involved in the negotiations, which have been between the Teamsters Union and Professional Transit Management, a private company that runs the bus system under contract with the city.

Their statement said bus drivers should "be fairly compensated for their labor."

Romero and Cunningham have voted against increasing bus fares after then City Manager Richard Miranda recommended it and service cuts as ways to improve the system's revenue picture.

The strike that began Wednesday at midnight has left tens of thousands without ways to get to work or school. Sun Tran statistics show that on an average weekday, 66,000 bus trips are taken. Managers drove buses on eight of the system's more than 40 routes on limited schedules.

Union officials said 530 drivers, mechanics and bus station workers were on strike, protesting wages and working conditions. They want raises for current workers, solutions to mold problems at the Tohono bus station on Tucson's north side and safeguards to protect drivers from passenger assaults.

Sun Tran officials have called management's offer fair and said they have been working with the union and the city on the mold and driver safety issues.

The offer is for continued company-paid pensions and health insurance and an 11th paid holiday each year. New drivers would start at $13.80 an hour, up from $13.30, but no increases were offered for current drivers or mechanics.

The union filed an unfair labor practices charge against Sun Tran management last week with the National Labor Relations Board, saying management is negotiating in bad faith. The claim is based on a Teamsters audit that the union said showed Professional Transit Management returned $2.2 million to the city in 2013 and 2014, while telling the union it had no money for raises.

Sun Tran officials have said they are responsible for running the system as efficiently as possible.

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