Greyhound, drivers about to meet head on over pay, benefit cuts

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Negotiators for Greyhound Lines and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) resumed contract talks Tuesday in Phoenix, Ariz., with a federal mediator urging a quick agreement to avert what could be a serious labor-management confrontation later in the week.

Greyhound has announced that its buses will resume operations on a limited basis tomorrow, with returning strikers and newly hired replacements filling jobs in buses, terminals, and garages in 27 states. Greyhound chairman John Teets said the line has all the qualified drivers it needs for buses to begin rolling tomorrow.

Initially service will be on the East and West Coasts and in the South. There will be a single Midwestern run. No cross-country buses will be scheduled.

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In a bid to regain lost passenger service, Greyhound will cut fares in half through Dec. 15, except for the busy Nov. 23-27 holidays. This has spurred a fare war with Trailways, which announced a similar cut and included the Thanksgiving period. Trailways has absorbed much of the passenger load normally carried by Greyhound.

Striking workers, told that they would have to report to jobs or face dismissal, held angry demonstrations across the country Monday and accused Greyhound of planning to use strikebreakers; they asked the public to refuse to ride buses manned by replacements.

Greyhound's Mr. Teets promised that only qualified drivers would be used and that the line would operate with ''the high standards of safety and service the public has come to expect.''

The strike began Nov. 2 when employees ATU rejected a contract that would have cut wages 9.5 percent and required employee contributions toward some benefits now paid for by Greyhound, while reducing other benefits. The ATU estimated total give-backs at more than 25 percent. The line said it must cut labor costs to bring them into line with those of its competitors.

Neither Greyhound nor the union are optimistic. There had been no negotiations on key issues since Oct. 31. Both sides are wary of what might happen if buses start running again and strikers' tempers flare up.

Greyhound's success in resuming service could depend on the other unions involved. The International Association of Machinists and United Automobile Workers represent groups of terminal and garage employees. The IAM has observed picket lines, but the UAW initially said that it has a contract and must uphold it.

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