Negotiations are underway in East Hartford today between the school bus company, DATTCO, and the union representing bus drivers, Local CSEA/SEIU 2001.
The two parties have been negotiating a contract for drivers since August. A tentative agreement was reached, but the drivers were not happy with the terms and decided to strike for one day on Tuesday.
“To the parents of Hartford it was just transportation. To us, it is a way of life. It is how we feed our children, it is how we pay our bills, so it was not something we decided lightly,” Malika Chambers, the shop steward said at the DATTCO bus yard in Hartford.
Chambers, a school bus driver for 14 years, said one of the big issues with the tentative agreement was the number of hours allotted per week. Drivers want an increase from 20 to 25 hours per week.
“We do not get paid a regular 52 work week. We do not get paid on snow days. We have to live off of what we make during the school year. So to survive, we need some guarantees,” Chambers said.
Drivers said they are not planning another strike and they are hoping that Tuesday’s strike showed DATTCO that they are capable of coming together as a unit and they hope DATTCO representatives take them seriously.
DATTCO Chief Operating Officer Cliff Gibson did not have a comment on Friday morning.
In a previous statement released on Tuesday, he said:
“The actions of Local CSEA/SEIU 2001 in calling a one day work stoppage today in Hartford were unfortunate and regrettable. Despite months of bargaining and the reaching of a tentative agreement, union leadership sought to place their own needs above those of our employees, the children and parents of the Hartford Public Schools, and the City of Hartford as a whole. DATTCO has continued to come to the table, offering increases in the existing labor agreement, including wages well above industry average. In an environment where many are receiving cuts, or even job loss, the type of stance taken by union leadership seems untimely and uncaring to those who most need their employment. DATTCO will continue to bargain in good faith, and has solicited the help of the Federal Mediator in this regard. We look forward to reaching an agreement when the next bargaining session is held. “