The bus drivers work for a variety of independent contractors. We negotiate with the contractors for what they get paid. We have done a lot in the last year and are willing to do more, but they must come to the table.
We have a lot of respect for our drivers.
In the middle of March 2020 when COVID shut down the schools. Buses did not run the rest of that year. Yet we paid the contractors to pay all drivers as if they drove every day to the end of the school year.
In September 2020 when we started school all virtual. We did the same thing. We paid all contractors to pay their drivers for the same number of hours they had the year before. We paid the contractors to make payments on their buses and to keep their buses up. Eventually, a few special education buses ran to bring in a few students and we did just 2 weeks of hybrid for PK-2 in November. Then we shut down again.
It was only in mid-February 2021 that we started phasing in hybrid schooling and that’s what we did for the rest of the year.
This year we gave the contractors the money for a 4% increase in pay for drivers and we gave them more money for the insurance trust fund. (We do not manage the insurance trust fund. That is the responsibility of the contractors.) The contractors made the decision they couldn’t afford life insurance and cut that from their plan.
We negotiate things with the contractors who pay the drivers. The drivers did not communicate any demands to us prior to the sick out of October 11 and 12.
A meeting was held at our request, not at the request of bus drivers, on October 15. We heard them out and listened to their concerns, but if there are any changes to be made, they must be made through our contractors who employ the drivers.
Generally speaking, walkouts happen when negotiations have failed. That is not the case here. We are open to talking about doing more now and in the future and will do so through our talks with the contractors.