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Home > Featured > Hundreds of bus rides still being canceled as union contract dispute continues

Hundreds of bus rides still being canceled as union contract dispute continues

By Bob Conrad
Downtown Reno bus station. Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno, July 11, 2021.

Keolis North America, Washoe County’s bus contractor, reported today hundreds of rides continue to be canceled as the company’s dispute with its workers’ union continues.

A company spokesperson said the missed rides account for about 5% of daily trips since July 9, 2021.

“Our priority is the safe and reliable operation of transit service for both our employees and our passengers,” said Mike Ake, regional vice president of operations. “As we manage a higher than normal rate [of] employees calling out for the day, we are still committed to providing our passengers service that is dependable and comfortable in the ongoing heat.”

More than 230 rides were canceled yesterday, causing passengers to wait even longer for buses. That accounted for 8% of the regional transportation commission’s daily rides for Wednesday.

Employees and union officials accused Keolis of not paying overtime for workers. Keolis representatives disputed this.

“Employees are given the first opportunity to accept additional shifts,” Ake said. “We have a dedicated team accountable for calling this list and if we do not reach a driver we leave a voicemail to seek trip coverage. Canceling a trip is a last resort.”

Ake said negotiations with the union have resumed with a meeting set for Monday. The collective bargaining agreement between Keolis and workers expired July 1, prompting  a vote to approve a possible future strike.

The union’s contract with for-profit Keolis Transit expired on June 30. Negotiations are scheduled to resume on Monday, July 26.

Teamsters Union Local 533 President Gary Watson chided the transit company.

“I can’t wait to get the RTCRide transit system profiteers face to face next Monday to demand that they reveal where they spent federal millions while ignoring COVID-19 safety, failed to hire enough drivers and allowed route cancellations to spread like a virus,” he said. “As of Thursday afternoon, 15 routes are down and passengers are sweating in the sun waiting for a bus that never comes. Keolis of course blames its depleted corps of existing drivers who have been infected with COVID-19 en masse largely thanks to company-enforced safety lapses.”

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from Watson.

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