Providence bus strike ends, drivers back on the job

Providence bus strike ends, drivers back on the job

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence buses were rolling again Monday morning after an 11-day strike left thousands of students without rides to and from school.

The union and bus company have been at odds over retirement benefits for months because the union wanted a pension. The company would only offer a 401(k).

Both sides finally reached a tentative deal on Friday.

Union members from Teamsters Local 251 then voted Saturday night in favor of a tentative contract, getting back to work driving the school buses Monday.

First Student Spokesman Francis McMahon issued a statement saying in part, “First Student has agreed to contribute on behalf of its employees to the Teamsters defined contribution plan which is known as the New England Teamsters Savings and Investment Plan.”

Union Bus Agent Nick Williams said while it wasn’t quite what union workers were looking for, they’re still happy.

“We’re feeling good to get back to work, it’s about time you know. The community suffered a lot through this, and we tried to do everything we could to avoid this strike,” Williams said. “The company just wasn’t moving so, in the end, we had to find a common ground and meet in the middle, and I think both sides realized that, and that’s what we did.”

Williams said there were 100 votes in favor of the new deal and no votes against it. One person chose not to vote.

On day nine of the strike, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island, along with two other human rights organizations announced at least three legal actions taken to the Rhode Island Department of Education in regards to the strike.

The groups claimed Providence Public Schools wasn’t honoring its responsibility to provide free, daily transportation for students with disabilities.

The ACLU gave the Department of Education five days to respond and schedule a hearing on the issue. When asked if they set up a hearing time, the Department of Education’s spokesperson said they had nothing to report.

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