JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Negotiators from a local bus drivers union and the two transportation companies servicing DCPS made significant progress Monday afternoon in reaching agreements.
The union struck a deal with Student Transportation of America and Durham School Services on a memorandum of understanding containing five specific safety measures. The disagreement over three of the five measures had been potent enough to fuel the consideration of a strike.
The union also reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with Durham School Services which members will need to approve through a vote, according to Rebecca Cardona, the negotiator representing Teamsters Local 512. As of Monday night, the collective bargaining agreement with STA is still being negotiated.
“We continue to negotiate together in good faith, having already agreed on many major components related to safety and other matters, and will continue to do so until we have a mutually acceptable completed contract with the Teamsters Local 512 for GSA4,” said a spokesperson for Student Transportation of America.
More than 28,000 Duval County students are registered to ride the bus to and from school starting Thursday.
“Both the union and the company recognize that the safety measures recommended to contain the spread of COVID-19 are fluid and subject to change,” Cardona said in a written statement Monday night. “Therefore, Local 512 will continue to monitor these provisions as the opening of brick and mortar schools in Duval County unfold and the safety provisions may be adjusted or enhanced as needed and recommended by the CDC and/or health authorities.”
Cardona added that some drivers and monitors will not be returning to their jobs despite the agreement on specific safety measures.
“Even with the outline protective measures some school bus drivers and monitors have advised that they will be unable to return to work at the start of school due to health conditions and/or being in the other high-risk groups related to COVID-19,” Cardona said.
Neither bus company responded to News4Jax’s request for information about the current number of bus driver vacancies.
Last Monday, News4Jax reported that the union representing more than 1,200 school bus drivers and monitors, was circulating ballots to vote on the authorization of a strike.
Days later, the regional vice president of STA, the larger of the two vendors, distributed a letter to employees in general service area numbers 1 and 5 that their layoff was recalled. The letter said that those employees were expected to report to their respective service depots Aug. 19. If they didn’t report on that day, it warned, their contractual seniority rights would be forfeited.
According to Rebecca Cardona, a negotiator for Teamsters Local 512, an agreement with the vendors was held up over three points in a five-point list of safety considerations. The complete list of safety considerations includes personal protective equipment, seating charts, social distancing, ventilation requirements and loading and unloading procedures.
“We continue to meet with both Durham and STA for regular contract negotiations,” Cardona told News4Jax in a text message last Wednesday evening. “However, we have reached an agreement through a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the five recommended safety guidelines that will be observed and provided at Durham School Services. We continue to urge STA to do the same.”