Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Bus drivers return to work, students greet them with enthusiasm

After CrimsonRide bus drivers went on strike Monday to fight for more benefits, higher wages and maintenance repairs on their buses, a number of drivers went back to work Tuesday.

Ryan McGuire, a junior, said he was excited to see one of his favorite bus drivers, Yorlando Hurl, back on her normal route. The two greeted each other excitedly and began to catch up on current events. In the course of five minutes, another student boarded the bus and exclaimed, “Oh you’re back today. I missed you!”

Some students seem to have a greater appreciation for all of the bus drivers after a day on foot, and some riders even seemed concerned with the outcome of the strike against First Transit.

While the drivers don’t have any new information on the effectiveness of their strike, Hurl said she is optimistic that First Transit is willing to “go back to the bargaining table.”

Drivers met with First Transit officials Tuesday to discuss the dispute. In May 2009, the drivers voted to unionize under the Amalgamated Transit Union, but First Transit has stalled contract negotiations, union officials said in February, which led to the strike.

CrimsonRide bus drivers are not UA employees. They work under contract with First Transit, a transportation company. The University pays First Transit $55 an hour per driver, and each driver receives only $9.50 of that amount.

While Hurl said that while she had hoped a different course of action could have persuaded First Transit to take the bus drivers seriously, she was supportive of the strike. Hurl said the bus drivers deserve proper compensation for their professionalism and work ethic.

“I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but most of the drivers try to be courteous and professional and give good quality service to get students where they need to go,” Hurl said. “Most of us are concerned with getting students to class as efficiently and safely as we can.”

Bus driver Darvi Beale participated in Monday’s strike, along with an estimated 80 percent of the staff, and said he seemed confident that the results would be favorable.

“We not getting satisfaction as it is today,” Beale said.

He said he hopes to attain a fair contract with benefits and hopes that First Transit will agree to compensate the drivers for the essential focus and discipline it takes to drive a motor vehicle safely. However, he mentioned that if a favorable compromise cannot be reached, he may be looking for additional work.

Beale said the current pay of the Crimson Ride drivers is poor in comparison to the salary of other drivers in the country and really does not match up at all.

“It’s embarrassing,” Beale said. “My family has had to cut back on everything —

traveling, shopping, and any unnecessary spending.”

Because Beale’s wife is unable to work due to illness, he said all of the bills are falling on his shoulders.

“We’re already going through the recession. And now? Demolition,” he said.

In addition, Beale said he trusts that the management team, along with First Transit, will reach a solution that is fair.

Beale said he doesn’t want a battle between First Transit and the CrimsonRide drivers, because he said that it doesn’t make sense.

“We are all supposed to be playing for the same team,” Beale emphasized.

In the meantime, both Hurl and Beale reiterated how much student support means to their cause. They said they appreciate all of the concern and care about their well-being and are simply hoping for the best possible outcome.

Due to ongoing negotiations, the University has temporarily cut their services with the CrimsonRide and will only be operating five buses until the drivers union and First Transit reach an agreement. The rest of this week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the CrimsonRide buses will only be operating the Coleman/Quad Express route and the Blue Express Route. From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the buses will operate its regular routes on Perimeter North, Perimeter South and Crimson.

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