Bus drivers on strike worked four-hour shifts yesterday, walking for 20 minutes at a time outside the Kalihi bus facility. Clifford Rodrigues, a driver, worked on a list of workers who had signed in to walk the lines yesterday morning. To his left was Amate Auelua, also a driver.

Bus strike
will likely last
past Labor Day

Both management and drivers
seem to be playing hardball

Oahu bus users are likely to be without a ride throughout the Labor Day weekend as strike talks are not expected to resume until next week.

Officials for Oahu Transit Services Inc., the company that manages TheBus for the city, said that perhaps a cooling-off period is needed before returning to the bargaining table.

Officials of OTS and Teamsters Local 996, representing about 1,400 bus workers, met Thursday night and could not come to an agreement in regard to the issues of wages and layoffs.

"My sense is perhaps they need to settle down a bit and reconsider their position," said chief OTS negotiator Perry Confalone. "After this weekend, perhaps the union will take a step back ... collect their thoughts and try again."

After talks ended Thursday night, Confalone said OTS asked to meet with the Teamsters yesterday to get back to the bargaining table but that the union refused to do so.

Talking to reporters afterward, he made a plea to the union and said: "I hope that they change their mind. ... Just give us a call, and they can contact the mediator and have the mediator call us. We're willing to get back to the table."

Teamsters President Mel Kahele's last words to reporters after Thursday night's talks broke down were: "See you guys later. We don't know when we'll be back on the bargaining table. ... We'll be striking up until the time the company decides on wanting to be reasonable."

According to Kahele, the company was unreceptive to the Teamsters' proposal of no wage increase for the first year and a 50 cents-an-hour wage increase for the second and third years.

Confalone said the union rejected the company's proposal of no wage increase for the first two years of the contract with a provision to reopen talks about a possible wage increase during the third year.

No settlement means a continuation of a citywide bus strike that has forced Oahu bus riders to drive, ride bikes or walk to work, school and other destinations.

The strike started Tuesday at 12:04 a.m. after the union's 72-hour strike notice deadline passed.

Last night, four Honolulu City Council members held an impromptu press conference publicly urging both sides to make the first phone call and get back to talking.

Councilmembers said that by law they were not allowed to get involved with contract negotiations between public unions and city employees. But they said they were receiving numerous phone calls, e-mails and letters from their constituents asking for help.

"Many of TheBus riders who are seniors, disabled and are on fixed incomes have no other way to get to the doctor or get to work," said Councilman Mike Gabbard.

"We're concerned because we're facing a long weekend," said Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi. "We're hopeful that the parties will return to the bargaining table soon and resolve their differences."


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