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Updated Aug 23, 2013 - 12:38 pm

Bus deal fails, drivers to go on strike at midnight

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PHOENIX -- Hundreds of bus drivers will go on strike midnight Wednesday after labor negotiations between Valley Metro and a bus drivers' union failed.

Hundreds of bus drivers were voted to go on strike and shut down public transportation in several Phoenix-area cities.

Transit-union leaders rejected a final offer Monday from bus company operator First Transit.

The strike will stop bus service on 40 routes in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert plus some routes in Scottsdale and Ahwatukee Foothills, and express service from those communities to downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale. About 57,000 passengers will be affected.

Susan Tierny with Valley Metro said those passengers will need to find other modes of transportation.

"Try to get rides from family members, friends, ask your boss if you can telecommute," she said. "Start looking now at the different options you may have."

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 represents about 400 drivers. First Transit operates buses for the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority.

The strike follows more than a month of contentious labor negotiations.

Union officials said First Transit asked drivers to accept significant hikes in health-care contributions and wants to give Valley Metro RPTA greater rights to fire union members.

Jen Biddinger, a spokesperson for First Transit, issued a statement regarding the strike Wednesday evening.

We are disappointed in the decision by the union and regret that we have been unable to reach an agreement.

We have presented several offers which are fair and equitable, especially considering current economic conditions. Our offer included significant improvement in premium costs specific to employees who select coverage for their spouses and families. We value each of our employees, and appreciate the focus and commitment to safety they bring to their positions each day.

We have contacted the federal mediator to determine why the offer was rejected and to explore additional discussions with the union in an attempt to avoid a strike.

We sincerely regret the inconvenience this will have on passengers.

For more information, go to valleymetro.org.

KTAR's Martha Maurer contributed to this report.

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