Bus contract rejection could lead to strike

Parents make alternate plans amid bus strike concerns
Terry Lovan (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
Terry Lovan (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

[Update: This article was posted before an extension stopped the potential for a bus driver strike.]

(WMC) - Teamsters Local 984 announced more than half of its members voted down Durham School Services' final offer, not because of economics but of the contract's language.

During a news conference, leaders said they do not expect to go on strike as they will continue negotiations through the weekend. Although, leaders have a lot to consider for the union's 500 members.

"We feel like right now unless the company and community understand how import these bus drivers are and these monitors, and what they do for the community, then it may not be another alternative but to take action like Kellogg had taken [referring recent 9-month lockout]," Terry Lovan with Teamsters said.

Teamsters union representatives said the meeting started at 11 a.m. this morning, and he expected it to take several hours to explain the contract before the vote.

The union has said if there is no agreement, it could mean no drivers for the first day of school.

"We're not looking forward to, or are we expecting to go out on strike. We're expecting to go back and talk with the company, and we will work things out but, at this point in time there are a lot of possibilities," representative Edward Houston said.

Union leaders are unhappy with pay, benefits, bereavement leave, bus monitors, and wording in the contract. Specifically referring to the new lots in Collierville, Bartlett, Millington, and Arlington for municipal schools. Under the new deal drivers in those lots would not be covered by union rules.

Houston spoke with WMC Action News 5 Thursday, so parents and students would be aware.

"We want to let them know to start now, working on an alternate way of getting them to school," he said.

Approximately 30,000 of the Shelby County Schools district's 117,000 students ride the bus.  

SCS has a contingency plan in place if there is a strike; they will give priority to routes with disabilities or special needs. "We're wanting to start our school year off productive, went want it to start out without mishaps. We've been planning for a good start, so we're hopeful that this will be worked out between the union and Durham," SCS school board member Shanta Avant.

Collierville Schools Chief of Staff sent out a release on the behalf of all municipal schools saying the Teamster vote will not delay the start of school:

Shelby County Municipalities, August 1, 2014– The municipal school systems are aware of the vote by the local Teamsters Union to reject the contract offer from Durham. While we are disappointed in the outcome of this particular vote, we are hopeful that progress will be made over the weekend. At this time we are not clear if a potential strike will affect bus routes in the municipal districts. However, we encourage all families to establish back-up plans if a strike does take place and our buses are not operating.

Please pay attention to all school and district websites, social media, and the local media for updates over the weekend. Please note - the vote of the bus drivers will not affect school opening on Monday, August 4, 2014.

SCS also released a statement:

Shelby County Schools is one of several local school districts that could be affected by this situation. It is disappointing and beyond our control, and we urge the individuals involved in this dispute to recognize the unnecessary impact this may cause the 150,000-plus students and families across this community.

We hope this matter can be resolved quickly and without disruption to our students and the start of the school year. However, even in the event of a strike by the local Teamsters, we want to assure parents that Shelby County Schools will be in session on Monday, August 4.

We are asking parents to be patient as we work through this situation. There will be some challenges, but we are going to continue doing our best to provide services to our students.

We will provide updates on this situation via the District's communication channels, including Twitter, Facebook and website, www.scsk12.org.

In the meantime some parents are making alternate plans.

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