School buses running, negotiations continuing for now
Dorchester School District 2, as well as the Beaufort and Charleston school districts, have been preparing for the possibility of a school bus driver's strike as contract negotiations continue between Durham School Services, the school bus service provider for those three districts and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the labor union to which the drivers belong.
DD2 released a statement Sunday saying that all schools will remain on normal schedules and that employees would not need to report an hour early Monday, as was discussed late last week.
“At this time, Dorchester School District 2 has not been notified that there will be a bus drivers strike,” according to DD2 PIO Pat Raynor. “Therefore, we will follow a normal schedule for students and employees on Monday, January 28. We will keep parents updated daily as we receive additional information.”
Durham released the following statement Monday morning regarding the situation: “As a partner to the districts and communities we serve, Durham School Services shares in the concern for the uncertainty of student transportation services that lies in the hands of the union. We remain committed to reaching an agreement with the Teamsters as we continue to balance the interests of our employees, our customers and our company at the negotiating table. We will resume meetings with the union on Tuesday, January 29, and will do all we can to minimize service disruption to students and ensure our employees are covered by a new and fair agreement.”
Last week Charleston and DD2 drivers voted to authorize a strike if negotiations fail. However, thus far neither Durham nor the Teamsters have released much information, other than to indicate that negotiations are still underway and that the respective parties would resume talks on Tuesday.
On Friday, Jan. 25, DD2 Superintendent Joe Pye reported that Durham had contacted the district and informed him that a strike could be imminent and that they were preparing for that contingency. Pye then informed district employees, parents, and the public that the district was making preparations of its own.
Realizing that if a strike was called over the weekend that bus service would be disrupted and parents would need to make other arrangements to get their children to school, Pye said Friday that district employees would be asked to come in an hour early to help prepare for such a situation and to ensure that the children arrived at school safely.
“Durham is talking about bringing in out of state drivers, but there's no way they can get them in that short amount of time, at least to handle the first day of a strike,” Pye said.
Also, Pye noted that the affected districts had been in contact with neighboring districts, however, the pool of drivers is very limited, he said.
“Basically, we are asking that the public be patient – this will impact parents and families if it happens, and we need to be as accommodating as we can,” he said.
Pye said the district has not had any part in these negotiations – the contract between the district and Durham is already set – and therefore the district does not have any other information on the negotiation process.
Nonetheless, it appears now that the negotiations will continue and the district can operate on normal schedule with normal staffing, he said.
Pye also said that the district has largely been satisfied with the services provided by Durham but that he will have some questions when it is time to revisit the contract.
“We've been satisfied – up until now,” Pye said. “We've never had to deal with this situation – it's a first for all of us here.”