Shelton, school bus workers finalize three-year deal

City of Shelton school buses parked in Shelton, Conn. June 7, 2018.

City of Shelton school buses parked in Shelton, Conn. June 7, 2018.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — The deal between the city and the union representing the bus drivers and monitors is official.

The Board of Aldermen, at a special meeting Thursday, unanimously approved the three-year contract with CSEA, SEIU, Local 2001, which calls for average annual increases of 2.25 percent. The deal is retroactively effective as of April 1, 2021.

“I’m happy that the city and the union has come to an agreement,” Shelton Student Transportation Service Director Ken Nappi said about the deal. “This was not an adversarial process. Both sides — the city and the union — worked hard to produce a fair contract.”

Mayor Mark Lauretti praised the bus drivers and monitors, calling them dedicated and consistent.

The deal includes an initial 5 percent increase in wages, retroactive to April 1, 2021, with a 2 percent increase as of Sept. 1, 2021, and another 2 percent increase as of Sept. 1, 2022.

Each employee will receive eight paid holidays during the year as well as a life insurance policy and alternative Social Security plan. The deal also includes a $400 signing bonus for each driver and monitor after the deal is ratified.

The new deal runs through Aug. 31, 2023, even as the court-stipulated deal between the city and the Board of Education ends after the 2021-22 school year. The contract remains in place if the Board of Education chooses to continue using the city-owned bus company.

“I think we have done an outstanding job taking over the service,” Lauretti said.

Word of the deal comes as the city-owned bus company announced it will be implementing updated technology and software. Training on the upgraded technology began last month, and the service is expected to be implemented in January, Nappi said.

Lauretti also praised work on updating the bus routes, which had not been done since 2009. The updating, which accounted for 1,500 fewer students than 2009, reduced the routes from 60 to 53. With 58 certified drivers, Lauretti said the bus company has had 2,105 runs since school began, with only three routes missed over that time.

“There have been runs that sometimes have been longer than normal, but we’re still out there picking up kids,” Lauretti said.

Lauretti said the city saved $800,000 in the first year of the deal, $1.5 million in year two, though he said the pandemic, which forced school closures in 2020, helped propel the savings.

Lauretti said he pushed to run the student transportation so the city could “control its own destiny and not be hostage to the marketplace.”

“We wanted to create a consistency in our expenditures (in this area),” Lauretti said.

The drivers and monitors have been working without a contract since SSTS took over student transportation two years ago. Lauretti said the workers created their own union, which was formally certified by the state in January 2020, a move needed before the city could begin negotiations.

Lauretti said the pandemic delayed negotiations, which were finalized last month, with the union membership voting to approve the deal in October.

Over the past two years, Lauretti said the city provided pay and benefit packages that mirrored what had been provided by Durham Student Service, which was the bus company last contracted by the Board of Education before the city took over.

“I cannot be more pleased with our drivers. They are such a dedicated group of people who take their jobs seriously and responsibly,” Nappi said. “They could have gone to work somewhere else, but they stayed here. They are the biggest part of this company’s success, now and in the future.”