School bus company, Teamsters continue talks about pay, conditions

Charlie Megginson Education, Headlines

Three school districts await the answer on negotiations between First Student, Teamsters. Photo by Thomas Park/Unsplash.

 

A potential school bus driver strike that could affect three New Castle County school districts appears to be on hold, for now. 

Districts with the potential to be affected include Appoquinimink, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Christina School Districts.

First Student, a national student transportation company, is in negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union which represents bus drivers in Delaware. 

Drivers are bargaining for better pay, working conditions and benefits, but the rate at which districts are reimbursed for student transportation is set by the General Assembly. 

Union officials had informed Appoquinimink School District that a strike would likely begin on Monday, Nov. 8, but that never panned out. 

Now, district officials are in a holding pattern while union and company officials try to hammer out a deal. 

Lilian Miles, public information officer for Appoquinimink School District, said they don’t have a seat at the table in the negotiations. 

“This is between the contractors and their drivers,” Miles said. “But the state really sets the reimbursement rates for these things. The state would need to make a change in that if these people make a demand then it would be on the state to make a change.”

But a spokesperson from the state Department of Education, Alison May, said they’re not involved, either. 

“We are not a party to these negotiations,” May said in a voicemail. “We aren’t part of the contract so we don’t have any information on where that’s at.”

She said that the situation is a dispute between a private company and its employees. 

Multiple efforts to reach First Student and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters were unsuccessful. 

Miles said that even though Appoquinimink School District is hoping a resolution can be reached, they do have a plan in place for the eventuality of a driver strike. 

High schools in the district would be forced to transition to virtual instruction until the drivers come back to work, but Miles noted that is a resolution that nobody is hoping for. 

“Parents do not want their kids to have to miss school,” she said.

Bus drivers in Delaware are required to hold a commercial driver’s license but are compensated at a rate significantly less than other professions with the same requirement. 

School bus drivers in Delaware, on average, make between $19 and $25 per hour. 

Appoquinimink School District has been strongly advocating that the state adjust the formula by which contractors and drivers are paid.

The district has been offering a promotion with a $4,200 signing bonus for several months. The promotion has generated thousands of views and lots of attention, but less than a dozen applications, according to Miles. 

 

 

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