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Strike update: Keolis accuses union of walking out of negotiations again

By Bob Conrad

Keolis North America’s Mike Ake said today the bus workers union again walked out of negotiations. The announcement came as the union strike — which has stopped most transit services in the Truckee Meadows for nearly two weeks — continues.

“I regret to inform the transit riders in the Truckee Meadows that union leadership for Teamsters Local 533 walked out of planned negotiations today instead of stopping the strike,” Ake said in a statement to the news media. “This is not the first time union leadership has walked out, nor is it the first time they have misrepresented the intent of proposals from Keolis.”

Teamsters Local 533 President Gary Watson disputed Keolis’ version of events.

“The Union is currently on an Unfair Labor Practice Strike against Keolis for refusal to bargain in good faith over the bidding/scheduling procedures,” he told This is Reno. “At these last two bargaining session … Keolis offered no counter proposal or an acceptance of our proposal; instead, they offer more delay and stated they couldn’t  answer our proposal for 13 days or longer (which keeps the strike active).

“They sure make it sound like we abruptly ended the meeting as Ms. [Rachel] Gattuso [Keolis’ PR representative]  portrays in her press release,” Watson continued. “The Union came into negotiations today [and] offered Keolis a counter proposal, asked Keolis if they had anything for us [and] they stated, ‘No.’ What did they expect from us? A session of patty cake?”

Ake called the discussions disrespectful. 

“We are concerned about the lack of respectful discussions and good faith bargaining consistently exhibited by the union leadership because it will not deliver a swift resolution for employees or riders,” Ake continued. “To reach resolution, we need union leadership to resume good faith bargaining practices.”

Yesterday, Washoe Regional Transportation Commission officials said they are “anticipating potential transit service changes beginning in January due to unprecedented staffing shortages of drivers regionally and nationwide, a consequence of the pandemic.”

That is due in part to the strike but also Keolis’ inability to hire more bus drivers, a problem occurring also with the Washoe County School District.

RTC Chair and Reno City Council member Neoma Jardon said, “These repetitive strikes are harming those who can least afford it and rely on public transportation, especially during the pandemic. Although the RTC is not a party to the negotiations, we learned that during negotiations last week that all articles presented were accepted on Friday and all parties agreed to meet again on October 7 and 8 to continue negotiations.”

Today, however, that appeared to fall apart.

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