Keolis Transit North America, the company that operates the Washoe Regional Transportation Commission’s (RTC) buses, today blasted the union representing bus drivers and other RTC workers.
The France-based company accused Teamsters Local 533 of misleading the public after yesterday’s This Is Reno story about the union giving initial approval to strike if a June 30 deadline to reach a collective bargaining agreement is not met.
“Keolis is disappointed to see this blatant campaign of misinformation from union leadership,” said Aline Frantzen, president and CEO of the company. “We have consistently shown up to the bargaining table every time the Union has been willing to meet, but union representatives have refused to meet on a regular basis and when they have met they refuse to commit more than a couple of hours to actual negotiations.”
The dispute has been ongoing for more than a year, with various allegations levied against Keolis, including refusal to mandate masks for all bus riders during the pandemic, locking out an employee and preventing her from breastfeeding, and most recently, a dispute over health care benefits.
“We have not discussed financial details of the CBA yet, so those dishonest claims are yet another example of the blatant campaign of misinformation.”
“Since June 2, the Union has refused to schedule future bargaining dates. It is not possible to negotiate a contract when you’re the only party committed to the process of bargaining in good faith,” Frantzen said. “Keolis has proactively requested a no-cost, federal mediator to help guide us to a mutually beneficial resolution but the union leadership has declined as a stall tactic.”
The company, however, earlier this year accused an independent arbitrator of being biased in favor of the union because he wanted to hold a meeting virtually out of concern for the spread of COVID-19.
Frantzen disputed the union’s statements to the news media. She called the statements inflammatory, false and an attempt to stall bargaining between the union and company.
“We were puzzled to learn that some union leadership is claiming Keolis has intent to dissolve health care funds and reduce pay and benefits. We have not discussed financial details of the CBA yet, so those dishonest claims are yet another example of the blatant campaign of misinformation,” she said. “Further, more than half of the union’s baseless [Northern Nevada Central Labor Council] claims against Keolis have been summarily dismissed by the NLRB after its investigators found that Keolis had done nothing wrong.”
Gary Watson, president of the teamsters, said this week they want Keolis gone from Washoe County and for their employees to work directly under RTC, a suggestion that has received only tepid support. He accused Keolis of union busting.
“They should be getting rid of the middleman,” Watson said. “In our opinion, that’s going to save the taxpayers money, too. And it’s going to be a better way for the RTC to operate the system because they’re going to be hands-on instead of hands-off and stop passing the buck to these contractors.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.