This is enough to make you want to sniff your bus driver's breath before you pay your fare. A city bus driver in Albuquerque, N.M., has been on paid leave for five months and will probably get his job back soon, even though he obviously showed up to work drunk back in November. This debacle is brought to you by an improper substance abuse test and union contract conditions.
The city transportation department seems to have its hands tied, but reiterates that the driver was never allowed behind the wheel when he came to work showing signs of inebriation. A savvy supervisor noticed that he was acting suspiciously, and sent him for a breathalyzer test, which showed he was definitely under the influence. He was immediately sent home.
That's when union officials got involved. They said that not only was the breathalyzer test administered improperly by an independent clinic, but that the driver's union contract states that he can keep his job after a first time offense if he gets counseling.
Union spokesman Rocky Gutierrez says "We believe in public safety, number one, but we also believe in the policies and procedures of the City of Albuquerque, that they should be followed, especially when it comes to the due process of employees."
The city wants to fire the bus driver, but the union won't allow it. It's taking quite some time to sort the issue out, and in the meantime, the driver is on paid leave. He hasn't been disciplined yet but could get up to 20 days suspension with mandatory counseling.
City officials say they hope to establish a no tolerance policy the next time they negotiate a contract with the union.