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Barbs thrown in bus dispute as negotiations called ‘productive’

By Bob Conrad

Keolis North America yesterday reported ride cancelations this week ranging from about 3% to 12% of its daily rides. On Saturday, July 24, 2021, 11.6% of the day’s routes were canceled — a total of 256 rides. Tuesday saw a 3% reduction in its cancellations.

Keolis officials said the company “continues to see an above average number of employees calling out, which is impacting the ability to deliver all scheduled trips,” company spokesperson Jenny Fahlbush said. “Keolis continues to prioritize the safe and reliable delivery of service for its passengers and is actively growing the workforce that operates this essential transit service.” 

Keolis is in labor negotiations with the bus workers’ union, Teamsters Union Local 533. Relationships have been tense between the union and the multinational, France-based company that operates buses for the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission.

Teamsters yesterday held a strike training “for Union members only” to be informed of the situation. Falbush, however, said the two groups had a productive meeting over renewing a collective bargaining agreement that expired July 1.

“Multiple options have been provided by Keolis to the union’s leadership for future meetings, and Keolis looks forward to the union’s response to schedule future meetings to build on that progress,” she said.

Union representatives did not return a request for comment but instead pointed to a newly filed labor complaint to the federal National Labor Relations Board.

“Here’s a copy of the federal charges of illegal unfair labor practices filed the day after  ‘negotiations,’” wrote union spokesperson Andrew Barbano. 

The complaint alleges labor law violations:

“Within the past six months Keolis violated [labor laws by sabotaging bargaining. Keolis’ failure to bargain includes but is not limited to 1) proposing to eliminate the Teamster Health & Welfare Fund benefit claiming the Teamster Fund fails to deal with employee questions but refusing to timely provide the Fund the identity of new employees,2) proposing to eliminate the current job bidding procedure but failing to show shift distribution under the employer proposal, 3) blaming the Union for cancelled trips caused by Keolis’ failure to hire and schedule a sufficient number of drivers,4) as ofJuly 6, 2021, refusing to provide information on any of its other outstanding take away proposals while demanding bargaining meetings, and 5) trying to provoke a strike.” –Federal labor complaint by Teamsters Union Local 533

RTC officials have to date deferred most all inquiries about the situation back to Keolis and the union. RTC Executive Director Bill Thomas emphasized at a recent meeting RTC would continue having its transit operations run by a private company.

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