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School bus company warns against Duval driver strike, promises to pull benefits

STA vice president tells drivers they'll lose seniority status if they fail to show up on day one

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Regional Vice President of Operations for Student Transportation of America told its Duval County employees that they’ll be stripped of any longevity benefits if they do not return to work next week.

The letter, a photo of which was forwarded by an employee of STA who didn’t want to be named, came one day after News4Jax reported that strike ballots were being distributed to school bus drivers and monitors of Teamsters Local 512.

This letter was sent to an employee of Student Transportation of America in Duval County on Aug. 11, 2020.
This letter was sent to an employee of Student Transportation of America in Duval County on Aug. 11, 2020. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

School bus drivers and monitors in Duval County are scheduled to report to work on Aug. 19, one-day before students arrive.

The letter, authored by Denis Gallagher Jr., says it’s an official notice of employment recall after the company’s March 3 layoffs due to COVID-19.

“Please report to your respective terminal by August 19, 2020 unless notified differently by your local operations manager or designated representative,” Gallagher Jr. wrote. “Any employee failing to report to work by August 19, 2020 shall lose all seniority rights as agreed upon in your current collective bargaining agreement.”

The letter also alludes to safety precautions that are under consideration but did not elaborate further.

“We look forward to welcoming you back,” the letter said. “All precautions are being considered for a safe and healthy return.”

A spokesperson for STA provided News4Jax with the following statement via email:

“Our existing labor agreements require STA to notify employees who are currently on layoff, in writing and via certified mail, that they are being called back to work. Many have already reported back to work to collect relevant paperwork and complete dry runs in advance of this written notification. We are excited to have each one of them back this fall.”

Spokesperson, Student Transportation of America

In early August, STA announced additional safety policies for its drivers in Duval County including a mandate to wear a facemask at all times in the route, frequent sanitation of the bus’ high-contact areas, and a new loading and unloading policy.

"Keeping Students Safe on the Bus" - A poster from Student Transportation of America. August, 2020.
"Keeping Students Safe on the Bus" - A poster from Student Transportation of America. August, 2020. (Student Transportation of America)

News4Jax spoke to an STA bus driver Wednesday who did not want to be identified. She said seniority benefits allow more seasoned drivers to have a preference of bus routes, work hours and field trips or extra projects, all of which can be lucrative for employees.

Also in the agreement, drivers are entitled to $19.50 an hour after they hit the five-year mark.


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