Posted: 10:50 p.m. MST
Union members who are employees of First Transit, a company that contracts with the Yuma County Area Transit (YCAT), plan to strike if contract negotiations do not turn up the kind of results they want.
If First Transit employees go on strike, YCAT will have a reduced bus schedule that will only operate Monday through Friday for limited hours because it would be non-union employees and other company personnel driving the buses.
Monday, union representatives met with First Transit to try to reach an agreement.
The president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 said First Transit employees are making poverty-level wages and have to work six days to make up a 36-hour work week.
"We're not asking for a lot in pay. We're more concerned with working conditions and medical benefits," said union president Robert Bean. "We understand the conditions in Yuma, so we're asking for a medical plan that, in their low wages, they can afford."
Union members are waiting to hear back from their employer on the proposal. A spokeswoman for First Transit, Maureen Richmond, said they are evaluating it now, and they are aware of the concerns of First Transit employees.
If employees do strike, it is unknown how long it could last, but the Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Agency (YCIPTA) has prepared a modified schedule with reduced hours of operation in case of a strike.
The transit director of YCIPTA said services will run regardless, and they may have to use employees from as far as Phoenix and San Diego to keep services running.
First Transit has a contract with YCIPTA to operate and maintain bus services, but the possible striking employees are employed by First Transit.
"It would be First Transit management employees and other First Transit non-unionized personnel [that would drive buses if employees strike]," said John Andoh, transit director of YCIPTA. "We sincerely apologize. It's our desire to make sure people can still get from point A to point B."
This disagreement stems from previous failed negotiations since First Transit employees joined the union last April.
"We don't want a work stoppage," Bean said. "We want to get this done for the benefit of us, the operators, and the company--something that we can all live with and work together on."
First Transit has until Wednesday to respond to the proposed contract, Bean said.
To look over that possible modified schedule in case of a strike, you can visit www.ycat.az.gov.