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Bus drivers ink concession deal

Privatization of busing avoided with new one-year agreement

June 16, 2010 - After more than an hour of closed session on Monday, the school board voted 7-0 to approve a tentative agreement with Teamsters Union 214 Brandon bus drivers and mechanics for contract concessions of $235,098.

The agreement was set to be ratified on Thursday after presstime.

Complete terms of the one-year agreement with the district's 28 school bus drivers and two mechanics were not discussed. However, the deal comes after several weeks of negotiation between the district and union officials.

School officials said privatizing is necessary to help finalize a budget for the 2010-2011 school year and was part of a list of cuts expected to save the district more than $3.5 million.

Debbie Allen, union steward for Teamsters Local 214 representing the bus drivers said they are willing to help the district.

"We went into negotiations and presented the school an offer for them not to privatize our jobs," said Allen.

"The school had three bids returned for busing and we beat two of them. If the district would have privatized, some of the drivers would not have had a job. Some of the companies would have brought in their own drivers. "None of our hours would have been guaranteed—it was very sketchy as to how it would have ended up for us (drivers). We just did not want to be dragged down to that level."

Allen said the current 28 Brandon bus drivers have more than 500 years of combined experience in the district.

"We want to keep the expertise right here in the district," she said. "We're a team and are very conscientious about our jobs—we take care of the kids at Brandon. You just won't find a better group of workers."

"So far no other group have given this much," she said. "All the groups should give a little piece—it should be the same for everyone. When times are hard everyone should jump in the pool together. That would make everyone part of the team."

Brandon Superintendent Lorrie McMahon said the concessions were significant for the district.

"It's a significant savings for the district from the union group," said McMahon.

"They worked hard with us, we gathered many times before we reached the agreement. We continually work with all the labor groups. The other groups have made reductions and sacrifice too. The Brandon Education Association made cuts to insurance and made steps to save the district money."

McMahon said the drivers knew the target amount and were provided the three previous bids from Cincinnati-based companies One Button Services and First Student, Inc., in addition to Student Transportation of America/Positive Connections, a New Jersey-based company.

"If the drivers had not met with reasonable concessions, the district would have went with one of the private companies," she said.

"This contract will expire in a year, and until the state changes the way schools are funded it will never be enough for schools to operate."

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