Source: Sherman Publications

Labor, district grapple over sub driver pay

by David Fleet

October 26, 2011

Goodrich- A slap in the face.

That’s how at least one district bus driver feels about last month’s pay hike to substitute drivers.

“The (school) district can’t cry broke then hand out a 15 percent wage increase,” said Karen Lovell, a bus driver for 11 years, and vice-president for the Custodians, Maintenance, Para-Pros and Transportation (CMPT) labor group representing 15 drivers. “The district did not just bring the substitute drivers up to par, they set the bar.”

Lovell’s concern stems from a Sept. 24 meeting where the school board voted 7-0 to increase the pay of substitute bus drivers. The district had paid drivers $12.68 per hour since 2006 and increased the rate to $14.20 this year. District Superintendent John Fazer said the increase would keep Goodrich in line with other districts in the area and attract people to do work as a substitute bus driver.

However, in May the Goodrich School Board voted 6-0 to OK a labor contract with the CMPT that included a 5.5 percent reduction in compensation for the employees, which should save the district about $120,000. Board Secretary Doug Tetmeyer was absent from the meeting.

About 61 employees were impacted by the concession. In addition, the district’s 11 administrators/supervisors also made concessions.

John Fazer, district superintendent, responded to the issue.

“We moved our substitute bus drivers pay to a more competitive rate with neighboring districts,” said Fazer. “The subs are in high demand—I am satisfied with the new sub rate.”

Jeff Gardner, board trustee, had expressed concerns about the decision after Monday’s board meeting.

“We are competitive with Grand Blanc (school district) at $14.46 per hour,” said Gardner. “They (Grand Blanc) are our biggest competitor for substitute drivers. We were lower pay than Grand Blanc—that’s our market. We’ll do our due diligence and compare “apples with apples” here.”

Lovell was not satisfied.

“I want the raise retracted,” said Lovell. “Don’t take money out of my pocket, I don’t think the board had the right information when they made the decision to hand out the raise to the substitutes. Our jobs were in jeopardy when we made those concessions—some employees took pay cuts, days off, everybody gave something. On the heels of all that, the board gives a 15 percent raise in this economy? It’s inexcusable.”

Lovell said pay was not the reason the substitute drivers were not available for Goodrich, rather an unfair rotation.

“The new transportation supervisor does a great job of making who gets the routes and now it’s a lot more palatable—that’s going to keep people here in Goodrich,” she said.

The substitute drivers work about five to eight hours per week and are at-will employees.

Lovell called other local school districts to demonstrate what they were paying substitute drivers per hour and reported: the Grand Blanc School District, $11.91; Flint School District, $11.50; Davison School District $10.40; and Owosso School District, $12.20 per hour.

The regular Goodrich District bus drivers earn $15.84 per hour, down from $16.76 per hour. Vision insurance is available for the drivers who work at least 20 hours per week. The buses transport anywhere from 40 to 68 students in two runs per school day.

Gardner supported the district’s decision.

“It’s difficult to find drivers and they are vital to the operations of our transportation system. Not everyone can do that job—a CDL (Commercial Drivers License).”

“The board will stay with the raise. Why do they wait and bring this out at a board meeting? I would hope this could be resolved before that time.”