April 10, 2014 at 12:41 PM
Though the district has not mentioned it in public meetings since a confusing line in a budget discussion on March 18, rumors are continuing to float around Methacton School District regarding its bus drivers’ contracts. Currently, the drivers are sourced by the Teamsters Union Local 384, along with the district’s maintenance and custodial staffing.
Representing over 200 drivers and custodians, the Teamsters plan to meet on Thursday night to discuss an alleged offer on the table. Local bus drivers, who names have been removed to protect their employment, said that the offer is a drastic cut in current pay.
“The school district has offered us 19 percent pay cuts to keep our jobs,” said one source, a current driver for the district.
Along with the cuts in pay, the drivers will be forced to contribute more into the health care costs, as well. It is unknown if drivers’ pension plans would be impacted.
Another driver called the plan a “real kick in the teeth” after years of dedicated service to Methacton.
Drivers told LP TAP that if the janitors, custodial crews and groundskeepers, also members of the same union, join the drivers and accept the cut, that it would be an overall loss of 9 percent for drivers.
“I have a feeling they’re [the district] going for the First Student idea,” said one driver.
First Student is an international provider of transportation services. It currently employs 61,000 staffers working in 1,400 school districts in North America, according to the company’s website. It provides many of the area’s transportation services. The same service was called into question by many Methacton parents, as options began to be circulated, due to questionable safety ratings.
Others noted that administrative positions at the district’s main office were somehow seeing a 2 percent increase in the same time frames, adding to their frustrations, according to one driver.
A meeting is scheduled for Thursday night, though the meeting is closed to the press and public and is intended for union members only. The district has only stated that they are, in fact, now negotiating contracts with the union, but cannot release any details nor confirm the information or figures provided by the drivers.
“The district is currently engaged in contract negotiations with the Teamsters, the union that represents our drivers and custodial staff,” said Angela Linch, director of school and community information, via an email on April 10. “We are unable to comment on the details of any proposed agreement at this time.”
As previously reported by LP TAP on March 25, the district said they had not yet decided upon action when it came to transportation services in the district as of that time.
“This confusion [rumors of a contract negotiation] may have resulted from a misquote that appeared in a recent Times Herald article that summarized the March 18 School Board work session meeting,” said Linch, in an email on March 25 to LP TAP. “At this time [March 25], the Board and Administration have made no decision relative to the outsourcing of transportation services.”
Drivers said they thought that wasn’t so long ago, as they allege an offer came to their union on April 9.
“I think they don’t want us to contact the parents because they want it to be too late,” said one driver over the district’s lack of communication with the public.
Another said that because the same union also represents First Student drivers, there is a conflict of interest among Local 384 representatives.
A meeting is planned at the union hall to discuss such issues, according to Brenda Perry, a union steward.
“The meeting is for union members for now,” said Perry. “At that right time, we will be in touch with parents.”
Perry and other drivers expressed an interest to notify the public before any action is taken.
“We will have our meeting to discuss it,” said Perry of the pending contract changes. “I would say in a week or so we will know for sure.”