The union representing Durham School Services bus drivers and monitors has voted to strike, according to one union official.
Ben Phillips, communications director with CSEA SEIU Local 2001, which represents the drivers and monitors, confirmed a vote was held Wednesday, April 24, to authorize a strike against their employer, Durham School Services, in the event “they are unable to reach agreement on a new contract. The vote allows the union negotiating team to call a strike if they feel it is necessary and the only way to get what they consider a fair contract for members.”
“Shelton school bus drivers are the first school workers to greet students in the morning and the last to wave goodbye to them in the afternoon,” according to a union statement. “We care about our students and are dedicated to ensuring that school buses remain the safest form of transportation in America. Shelton school bus drivers want parents to know that we care deeply about the safe transport of our city’s most precious cargo, our students, but we also have to take care of our families. Drivers and monitors want to settle without a strike, but Durham hasn’t made a fair offer."
Phillips said drivers and monitors in Shelton have been working without a contract since July, 2018, when Durham began providing school transportation services in the city and refused to honor the collective bargaining agreement that was in place and had included wage increases.
Shelton school bus drivers and monitors will hold an informational picket at the bus yard on Friday, April 26, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
“CSEA is continuing to negotiate,” the statement reads, “and we encourage Durham School Services to also continue negotiating in good faith.”
CSEA SEIU Local 2001 represents 25,000 active and retired state, municipal and private sector workers, including 103 Shelton drivers and monitors and more than 1,000 school bus drivers statewide in Connecticut.
News of the strike authorization vote broke on Facebook midday Wednesday, April 24.
“School bus drivers in Shelton have been working without a contract since last July when Durham School Services took over student transportation and refused to honor the pay and benefits that were already promised,” according to a Facebook post.
“Union members have bargained in good faith for months,” according to the post. “It’s time for Durham to step up and offer a fair contract with no cuts for drivers and monitors.”
No date has yet been set, but in the Facebook post, employees have asked those affected to contact Mayor Mark Lauretti’s office and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Chris Clouet and “tell them to do everything they can avoid a strike and get your school bus drivers and monitors a fair contract.”
Clouet had no comment on the strike vote, saying that it would be inappropriate for him to speak on this issue since the Shelton school district is not a party to the negotiations between Durham School Services and the union.
Calls to Durham School Services’ media representative, Ed Flavin, have not been returned. Durham School Services is a division of National Express LLC (NELLC), which, according to the company’s website, is the North American subsidiary of National Express Group, PLC, a transportation firm in the United Kingdom.
In a post on Facebook, 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.