After more than two days of negotiations, the union representing the Shelton bus drivers and monitors has reached a tentative agreement with its employer, Durham School Services.
The deal was announced today, a week after the Shelton bus drivers and monitors had voted to authorize a strike and only five days after some union members stated the intention to walkout if “serious negotiations” had not started by this past Monday.
“Durham will be required to honor the wages and benefits promised to workers under the previous contract with Landmark Transportation,” said CSEA SEIU Local 2001 Communications Director Ben Phillips, adding that “included in the agreement, is full back pay of the raises due in September 2018, which Durham had refused to pay.”
Durham School Services’ media representative Ed Flavin also confirmed a tentative agreement is in place, and “there will be a vote on Wednesday, May 8.”
“The result means no disruption to the daily work of our students and staff,” said school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet. “In addition, I know our students’ families are delighted. We know our drivers play an important role in the routine of our students, and Durham has proven to be a thoughtful transportation management team.”
Board of Education Chairman Mark Holden echoed Clouet’s statement.
“This is very good news,” said Holden. “Obviously we were concerned about the possibility of a strike, which would have been a tremendous inconvenience for so many people. We are all thankful they were able to reach an agreement.”
Phillips said that, in 2018, Durham School Services signed a one-year, multimillion-dollar contract with the Shelton Board of Education to provide school transportation, and school bus workers were covered by a union contract through August 2020 that included negotiated pay and benefits.
In a prior Facebook post, the union listed several items Durham wants to remove from the union contract, including retroactive raises, personal days, unpaid extended leave, payment for “student endorsement” renewal, mileage reimbursement for drug test and medical exams, and payment for travel and testing time of drug tests and medical exams. Employees would also be forced to work the day before and after to receive holiday pay.
“Durham refused to honor the terms of that contract and canceled raises that had been promised to the drivers and monitors,” said Phillips.
Phillips said Shelton drivers and monitors refused to give up the pay and benefits that their families depend on, which led to the vote to strike Wednesday, April 24. Bus drivers and monitors held an informational picket on Friday, April 26, and planned to begin striking on April 30 if they were unable to reach an agreement with Durham. The strike was postponed after negotiations began Monday, April 29.
“After lengthy negotiations, Durham backed down, proving once again that when working people are united together in unions, they win,” said Phillips.
The city of Shelton will be taking control of school transportation in July, which means that a new contract will be finalized between the city and the drivers and monitors at that time. Both Mayor Mark Lauretti and Phillips confirmed that there have been discussions but nothing close to being final yet.
Durham School Services is a division of National Express LLC which, according to the company’s website, is the North American subsidiary of National Express Group PLC, a transportation firm in the United Kingdom.
brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com