Bus drivers for the Beloit School District have been trying to negotiate a contract for more than a year, and a federal mediator has been called in to try to resolve differences that have led to the impasse.
Bus drivers represented by AFSCME Local 412, met with parent company First Student along with a federal mediator this week. The bus drivers union has been negotiating with First Student since August 2011 on a new contract.
Union spokesman Ed Sadlowski said the talks this week didn’t make much progress, and members of the bargaining team will present the company’s offer to workers on Wednesday.
Workers could also take a strike authorization vote at that time too, Sadlowksi said. The strike wouldn’t start for at least 60 days due to a clause in the current contract.
The main sticking point has been over wages, said First Student spokeswoman Maureen Richmond.
The two sides were about $24,000 apart after their last meeting, Sadlowski said.
Starting wages are $10.30 an hour, and the contract does not include any type of benefits such as health insurance or sick leave.
Richmond could not confirm if Beloit bus drivers have any benefits, but said that contracts with First Students differ across North America.
First Student wants to take away the first year wage increase, which increases hourly pay to $11.20, Sadlowski said. First Student is offering the union starting wages at $10 per hour.
“Twenty-two of the 38 workers are in their second year so they wouldn’t get that raise under the proposed contract,” Sadlowski said. “Unfortunately workers feel there are broken promises.”
Richmond said she could not confirm any specific information about the contracts because they are still under negotiation.
Sadlowski wouldn’t say if he thought a strike was imminent, however, he didn’t rule it out.
“In the private sector, that’s how you resolve these issues,” he said. “But that’s for the workers to decide. It’s not what anyone wants. The workers don’t want that.”
Richmond said there is no indication that there will be a work stoppage, but will continue to update the school district over the talks.
Steve McNeal, superintendent for the district, said district officials have not been in on the contract talks. He also said he did not believe that there would be a work stoppage.
McNeal also said there is no set plan in place for student transportation if there is a driver strike.
The company employs 34 drivers and four monitors.