January 18, 2007

Bus Union Opposes Outsourcing: Greyhound Drivers Say Line Wants Spanish Speakers; Firm is Silent

By Katherine Yung, The Dallas Morning News

Jan. 18--Dallas-based Greyhound Lines Inc. wants to subcontract some of its bus drivers' work to nonunionized, Spanish-speaking drivers, according to the union representing the company's 3,000 drivers.

"Their goal is to transfer some of our work to lower-paid drivers," said Bruce Hamilton, president of Local 1700 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Greyhound, the nation's largest interstate bus company, wouldn't comment on the issue.

"We aren't going to discuss the specifics of our negotiations in a public forum," said spokeswoman Kimberly Plaskett. "We're still committed to reaching a fair agreement with our drivers."

But outsourcing has turned into a key union concern during talks for a new labor agreement for Greyhound's drivers. The contract expires Jan. 31. Bargaining sessions began Jan. 8 in Washington, D.C.

Greyhound has proposed allowing only Spanish-speaking drivers to bid on certain bus routes, Mr. Hamilton said. That would allow the company to bypass the seniority system that now determines driving assignments.

The union says the company will use the proposal as an excuse to implement a clause in the current contract that allows for a limited amount of subcontracting, Mr. Hamilton said. The union is trying to eliminate that clause in its new contract.

Appealing to Latino customers has long been a top priority for Greyhound. Its subsidiary, Dallas-based Sistema Internacional de Transporte de Autobuses Inc., operates two bus lines geared toward Spanish-speaking immigrants. Sistema drivers aren't unionized.

Although the situation at Greyhound is unique, other companies have jobs that require skills in foreign languages.

American Airlines flight attendants who speak Spanish and other languages usually get to work on international flights that may be above their seniority level, said Lori Bassani, a spokeswoman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union representing American attendants.

They also get extra pay for these flights, she added.

At Greyhound, a number of drivers do speak Spanish, and the union offers some bilingual training for its members.

"There is absolutely no reason we can't all learn Spanish, and we're willing to do that," said Mr. Hamilton.

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