Bus drivers express concerns over changes at RTC

Bus drivers express concerns over changes at RTC

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED May 7, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Changes are coming for hundreds of RTC bus drivers this summer when two new companies take over operations. But that has also led to concern for union drivers about what it will mean for their jobs.

"The hardest part is not knowing," said Sam Santoria, a driver and ATU Local 1637 union member. "Not knowing where you're going to be, if the pay is going to be the same, your benefits. I mean that's the biggest part are benefits."

The Regional Transportation Commission owns the buses, but a separate company employs the drivers. For the last 20 years, Veolia Transporation Services held the only contract for fixed route bus service. But the RTC said a court settlement forced it to split the contract into two. The agency hired two new companies, MV Transportation and Keolis Transit America, to take over operations on July 7.

The union said that means roughly 800 drivers and about 100 mechanics will have to reapply for their jobs as it tries to negotiate new deals with both operators.

"There is a lot of concern from the very beginning when they initiated the approval to split the yards," said Jose Mendoza Jr., local union president.

With no new deals in place yet, Mendoza said drivers are concerned about their jobs and wages.

"We are seeking parity on both the wages for the operators and the maintenance department, on both yards, we are going to seek parity," said Mendoza.

The RTC said negotiating terms of the deals is up to the union and the new companies, though the RTC stressed that current drivers would keep their jobs as long as they apply and pass background and drug tests.

In a statement, MV Transportation said it's committed to hiring all incumbent drivers who applied by May 1st and have passed the company's standard qualification process, including background and drug tests. The company said it has agreed to current wage rates while negotiations with the union are under way.

"MV has a long standing relationship with the ATU throughout the U.S. We look forward to building a new and lasting relationship with ATU Local 1637 and our employees in Las Vegas," said Kevin Klika, MV president and chief operating officer, in the statement.

Meanwhile, Keolis said in a statement that it is negotiating with the union in good faith; however, "It is very premature to publicly discuss the details of these conversations. As promised, Veolia drivers have been given the opportunity to work for Keolis and will be offered comparable wages and benefits and seniority will be recognized and honored," said Dwight Brashear, executive vice president and general manager of Las Vegas.

Mendoza said the union is set to meet with both companies separately later in May. If the union and the two operators cannot reach a deal by July 7, the RTC said the new companies will still take over operations and provide bus service to the public.