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YCAT develops plan in case of bus driver strike
The company that runs the local public buses has developed a contingency plan to ensure the continuation of certain routes in case of a strike by bus drivers.
The Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (YCIPTA), the agency that oversees the Yuma County Area Transportation (YCAT) bus service, would provide free bus rides to all passengers if the plan is activated, until full service is restored, said John Andoh, transit director.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, which represents the First Transit bus operators, has threatened to shut down the YCAT buses if contract negotiations fall through this week.
Union officials headed back into negotiations Monday, but First Transit bus drivers and mechanics have already approved a strike if the negotiations fail. The workers approved the strike with a 99 percent vote on Sunday.
If the company and union fail to reach an agreement, a work stoppage could start as soon as 5:50 a.m. Wednesday.
“It is unclear whether this means that YCAT bus operators and mechanics, who work for First Transit Inc., intend to strike or not,” Andoh said.
“YCIPTA is not privy to these negotiations as the employees work for First Transit and not YCIPTA. However, First Transit is contractually obligated to deliver transit services on behalf of YCIPTA,” he explained.
In case of a strike, the plan calls for YCAT to continue operating buses only Monday through Friday between 6:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and again from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Buses will not operate after 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and on Saturdays.
Most routes will operate with small six- or eight-passenger buses, with the exception of Orange Route 2, which serves the colleges and east Yuma, and Yellow Route 95, which serves Highway 95 South. Larger buses will be used on these two routes.
If a First Transit bus driver crosses the picket line and is able to drive YCAT buses, YCIPTA and First Transit will restore service in the following priority order: 1) Yellow Route 95 (second bus), 2) Red Route 1 (central Yuma counterclockwise circulator via 4th Avenue), 3) Blue Route 5 (Quechan shuttle), 4) Violet Route 7 (Cocopah shuttle), 5) Silver Route 9 (Arizona Western College/San Luis connector), and 6) Yellow Route 95 (third bus).
“Our top priority is for the safety, convenience and satisfaction of our customers,” Andoh said. “YCIPTA will continue to do everything in our power to minimize any service disruptions.”
The complete proposed contingency plan is available online at www.ycat.az.gov and by calling 783-2235. YCIPTA will update the website to reflect current service information, and staff answering the YCAT telephone hotline will have updated information.
“YCIPTA apologizes for the inconvenience and hardship created by the potential bus strike by the bus operators and mechanics represented by ATU Local 1433,” Andoh said. “YCIPTA appreciates every passenger and understands that you rely on our services to get to school, jobs, vital appointments and community events. Thank you for your patience during this time.”
Last April, First Transit bus drivers and mechanics voted unanimously to join the union, a decision that came as a surprise to First Transit. The manager at the time, Donald Kilner, said the company would not interfere if the bus operators chose to join the union.
The workers asked the union to represent them in future negotiations with First Transit. The first few rounds of negotiations with First Transit have gone “nowhere,” Bob Bean, union president, said Friday.
“They're claiming poverty, which is standard in contract negotiations ... I am fully prepared to shut down the YCAT buses if we cannot get an agreeable contract,” he said.
However, First Transit spokeswoman Maureen Richmond said the company has been “negotiating in good faith” with union representatives since last year. “The negotiations have been productive and amicable, and we have every intention of reaching a resolution. We have absolutely no reason to believe there would be any interruption in service.”
Bean said the bus operators are asking for reasonable pay and sick time. “The YCAT operators are some of the lowest-paid professional operators in the West. They also have to work six days a week to maybe make 36 hours a week.”
First Transit bus drivers in Yuma are paid an average of $11.43 an hour, while the state average is $18.73 an hour, he noted.
“They're not even making it above poverty level,” Bean said. “We're trying to get them a contract so they can afford to live.”
Richmond disputes this, noting that “our operators and technicians are paid very competitive wages.”
YCAT strike contingency plan:
Red Route 1 (central Yuma counterclockwise circulator via 4th Avenue) - This route will be temporarily discontinued. Passengers would need to use Green Route 4.
Orange Route 2/2A (colleges/east Yuma) - This route will be extended to South Frontage Road and Fortuna Road in the Fortuna-Foothills and operate on a 90-minute circuit.
Brown Route 3 (Fortuna-Foothills shuttle) - This route will be temporarily discontinued. Passengers would need to use Orange Route 2.
Green Route 4 (central Yuma clockwise circulator via Pacific Avenue) - This route will be extended from 3rd Street to 4th Avenue to Winterhaven and then via Picacho Road to Paradise Casino then via Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge to Downtown Yuma Transit Center. This route will operate on a 75-minute circuit.
Blue Route 5 (Quechan shuttle) - This route will be temporarily discontinued. Passengers would need to use Green
Route 4 - Passengers traveling to Quechan Casino Resort would need to call YCAT OnCall.
Purple Route 6/6A (Avenues A and Cocopah reservations) - This route will operate its Saturday 6A route every 120 minutes.
Violet Route 7 (Cocopah shuttle) - This route will be temporarily discontinued. Passengers would need to use Purple Route 6A.
Gold Route 8 (Interstate 8/Wellton) - This route will continue to operate its regular schedule.
Silver Route 9 (AWC/San Luis connector) - This route will be temporarily discontinued. Passengers would need to use Yellow Route 95 to Orange Route 2.
Turquoise Route 10 (Interstate 8/El Centro/Yuma) - This route will continue to operate its regular morning schedule on Monday and Wednesday only.
Yellow Route 95 (Highway 95 South) - This route will operate every 90 minutes on its regular route.
NightCAT - This route will be temporarily discontinued. No alternative services available.
YCAT OnCall - Only one vehicle will operate. Passengers destined for Quechan Casino Resort would need to call to request a ride at least one hour in advance and would need to be at Winterhaven Hub Liquor or Paradise Casino only.