PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — School bus drivers in Providence may soon go on strike unless the union that represents them and the company that employs them can come to an agreement.
First Student, the private company that provides transportation services for a large part of the city’s school district, said it made its “last offer” on Friday for a new contract with Teamsters Local 251.
The union rejected the deal and sent a counteroffer on Monday, telling 12 News it plans to give the company until Wednesday to accept.
“First Student received a counter proposal from Teamsters Local 251 leadership earlier today and First Student will provide union leadership with an enhanced final contract offer shortly,” First Student spokesperson Frank McMahon said. “We look forward to a favorable reaction from our employees and a ratified contract.”
Worrying that a bus driver strike will negatively impact student attendance, state and city leaders issued a joint statement Monday urging the union and First Student to “take every measure to avoid a strike and reach a prompt contract resolution that is fair for all.”
“We cannot stress this enough: A strike would be extremely detrimental to families, students, educators, and the entire Providence community,” Gov. Dan McKee, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, Providence Superintendent Javier Montañez and School Board President Erlin Rogel wrote.
“We also know that for the approximate 8,500 student riders who will be hurt by a strike, there are numerous families who will also face disruptions at home and at work and will have to make difficult decisions,” the statement continued. “Additionally, this will impact students’ ability to access nutritious meals with approximately 90% of Providence students qualifying for free and reduced meals and nearly 17,000 students taking advantage of school breakfasts and lunches.”
“This is not acceptable, and it is avoidable,” they added.
The leaders went on to say they’re “exploring alternative options” to prevent students’ learning from being disrupted, should the bus drivers go on strike.