NEWS

Lack of drivers labeled cause of interruption in school bus service

Posted 10/7/21

When many parents and guardians got their children ready for school on Friday morning they were expecting that they would take the bus to school like normal. 

That wasn’t the case in …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in
NEWS

Lack of drivers labeled cause of interruption in school bus service

Posted

When many parents and guardians got their children ready for school on Friday morning they were expecting that they would take the bus to school like normal. 

That wasn’t the case in Warwick after the School District made the decision to cancel all bus services for the day. 

“Unfortunately, First Student will be unable to provide transportation services today, Friday Oct.1 , due to a union labor issue,” an email to parents from school officials stated. “High School buses have already been dispatched, but there will be no elementary or middle school busing this morning including small buses for special needs students.”

The email said there would be no afternoon pick up for all students. 

According to Catherine Bonang, executive assistant to the superintendent, 14 routes lacked either a bus driver or aid prompting the administration to cancel all busing today for safety reasons.

“First Student is disappointed that full transportation service did not occur today for Warwick Public Schools,” said Frank McMahon, a spokesperson for First Student. “We understand the frustration this caused students and parents, especially on such short notice.  First Student supported the Warwick School Department’s decision to suspend transportation today. We were unfortunately not informed in advance that several employees planned to not report for work.”

Earlier in the week members of Local 618 which represents the bus drivers in Warwick held informational pickets on Strawberry Field Road outside of the First Student bus yard, saying that they wanted better wages and working conditions. 

This it led many on social media to speculate that the bus drivers had some sort of “sick out.”

“During a national bus driver shortage, already causing stress for many districts like Warwick, our ongoing union contract negotiations should not be playing a role in making the current environment even more challenging,” McMahon said on Friday. 

But on Tuesday, Mayor Frank Picozzi said that he spoke with the union, the bus company, and drivers and found out that some people were out on long term injuries, some took personal days, and some called out sick. He said that based on the numbers, the number of people that called out sick “wasn’t out of the ordinary.”

“There was no job action, it wasn't a sick out. It was kinda like a perfect storm,” he said. 

McMahon did not respond to an inquiry about the number of people who called out on Friday. 

Picozzi recognized that the bus driver shortage is something that communities across the country are dealing with. 

“It's a nationwide crisis and it reached here,” he said. 

On Monday bus services resumed.

"First Student is pleased our drivers are back to work today in Warwick providing the yellow school bus transportation students and families rely on,” said McMahon. “The lines of communication between First Student and the union remain open. We look forward to a successful negotiation session and to reaching a fair and equitable agreement that is mutually acceptable, and supports the continuation of reliable, safe service for Warwick Schools."

McMahon said, “our goal is to reach a fair and equitable agreement with Local 618 as quickly as possible.”

He said there is a contract extension until Oct. 8 that contains a no strike clause, and said that they were expected to continue negotiations with the Union and a federal mediator on Oct. 7. 

“We look forward to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement as soon as possible, including our current offer of raising wages to $27 per hour for top step drivers,” McMahon said. 

buses, drivers

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here