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Keolis’ ‘best offer’ should be looking to the future, but it’s not (opinion)


Submitted by Gary Watson, president of Teamsters Local 533, and Mike Pilcher, president of Northern Nevada Central Labor Council and member of Nevada AFL-CIO Executive Board

Today, Monday, Nov. 8, the remaining bus drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and supervisors who are the backbone of our regional public transit system will vote on an underwhelming contract offer from the French corporation Keolis. The offer doesn’t meet the needs of the employees, this community, or serve the future of our regional public transit sector. Protecting those interests are critical to the workers in the profession and a ‘No’ vote could result in strike number three against Keolis.

Last week, Phil Pumphrey, the area general manager for the now-infamous Keolis Corporation (the Regional Transportation Commission’s foreign contract operator), sent an internal memo to his employees which stated that the company’s best offer to our local bus transit employees would “put Keolis team members in a strong position to continue delivering excellent service for our passengers and supporting the well-being of their families.” 

Oh, really? Mr. Pumphrey might want to take a closer look at his offer and the few employees he has remaining before they all leave for better-paying jobs.

Pumphrey also stated that the corporation’s offer of a 4% raise per year for the next three years was “more than double the average rate of inflation for the last five years.” This is incredibly poor hindsight. 

Rather than looking backwards, a general manager of a worldwide corporation should be looking forward – ensuring efforts to attract and retain employees in today’s market, not yesterday’s.

Referencing the CPI-W (the Consumer Price Index for Wages), the U.S. Bureau of Labor pegs inflation for area wage earners in the 5.3% to 6.3% range, with projections for October likely higher. 

Keolis’s “best offer” would result in a pay cut to workers already struggling to pay for skyrocketing rent, food, clothing and medical bills in today’s market. 

A local casino’s advertisement on the side of an RTC bus offers $20 per hour plus scaled-up benefits to attract new workers to the hospitality industry. Like many industries, this represents a 50% to 90% increase in pre-pandemic wages. A stingy 12% over the next three years isn’t going to cut it for our local bus drivers, mechanics and dispatchers. They will go elsewhere.  Many already have. They stood tall during the COVID-19 outbreak and deserve better management and compensation after what they’ve been through for the last two years. 

Avoiding another transit strike should be Keolis Corporation’s number one concern. Three strikes and they should be out. They must up the ante to recruit new employees and secure their remaining employees. 

Keolis has received millions of American dollars for pandemic relief – public money intended for sustaining employment. It’s time to appropriate those dollars. Keolis would be wise to accept the offer made by their workers, members of the Teamsters Local 533–a 17% increase over the next three years – before it’s too late. If this French corporation puts local community stakeholders ahead of foreign stockholders, our local public transit system may just survive. Maybe.

Submitted opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article or letter to the editor here.

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