PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Students who ride the bus in Providence were without transportation to and from school again on Monday as the city’s bus drivers picketed for the third day.
As of Monday afternoon, no new meetings have been scheduled between Teamsters Local 251, the union representing the bus drivers, and First Student, Inc., the private company that oversees the city’s school bus operations.
Union members have been without a contract since June as the two sides continue to squabble over retirement benefits. The union is demanding that drivers receive pension plans while the company maintains it is only willing to increase its contribution to the members’ 401(k) plans.
Despite meeting numerous times over the summer, the two sides failed to reach an agreement and the union walked off the job last Thursday.
For the past three school days, parents have had to find alternative ways to get their children to school and on Monday, they said tempers are growing short.
“I have to get up a little more earlier because of the traffic, it’s really bad,” Providence parent Emanuela Ortiz said. “People are honking the horn, they’re cutting, they even taking the crosswalks to try to get into school on time to bring the kids.”
Student attendance dropped to 84% on the first day of the strike, according to the school district, and even further, to 79%, on day two. The district said students who were absent or late due to transportation issues during the first three days of the strike would be excused. With the strike set to enter its fourth day on Tuesday, parents are urging for a resolution more than ever.
“It’s not OK,” Ortiz added. “It’s not acceptable for nobody, for no parent to go through this and no student – especially the students – to go through this.”
Since the start of the strike, members of the city’s police and fire departments have been posted near city schools in an effort to ensure students’ safety. A spokesperson for the police department on Monday said support will continue to be provided as the strike continues.