(WPRI) — More families in Rhode Island may soon have to worry about whether their children have a ride to school on a daily basis.
Bus drivers in Pawtucket, Bristol-Warren and Scituate have voted to authorize a strike, Teamsters Local 251 secretary treasurer Matthew Taibi confirmed in a statement.
“School bus workers have been diligently transporting our most precious cargo, our children, and have been very patient as negotiations have been ongoing for well over a year for at least two locations,” Taibi wrote. “Scituate workers organized about a year ago and have patiently been waiting for a first contract.”
Taibi said these essential workers have not received a raise during the pandemic, at a time when the industry has seen a shortage of workers. While facing regular layoffs on virtual days, he said school bus work is mostly part-time with split shifts and layoffs built in.
First Student, who employs the drivers, has “stalled in bargaining with Local 251 and has frustrated everyone involved,” Taibi said.
Last month, school bus drivers in Warwick came to an agreement with First Student on a new contract that will run through 2024.
The contract, according to First Student, includes “generous pay raises … increased 401(k) contributions, and other benefit improvements for our valued, hardworking Warwick school bus drivers.”
“Hopefully the company has gotten the message loud and clear,” Taibi added. “The workers love working with their students and hope the company doesn’t force them to strike for a fair contract. Stay tuned.”