Education

Tacoma school buses will roll as union, bus company continue contract negotiations

Contract negotiations continue between bus drivers and Durham School Services – the Illinois-based company that provides most of Tacoma Public Schools’ bus services.
Contract negotiations continue between bus drivers and Durham School Services – the Illinois-based company that provides most of Tacoma Public Schools’ bus services. Tacoma Public Schools

Tacoma Public Schools have assured parents that school buses will be running when school resumes Tuesday, as contract negotiations continue between bus drivers and Durham School Services — the Illinois-based company that provides most of the district’s school bus services.

A representative for Durham said Thursday that drivers are scheduled to vote on a new contract on Tuesday. They rejected a previous contract offer.

The drivers are represented by Teamsters Local 313. Teamsters officials declined comment Thursday.

The contract between drivers and Durham is set to expire after Monday, but the union and the bus company have agreed to extend the contract until Jan. 16 to allow mediation and negotiations to continue if needed, according to the school district.

Durham transports about 6,000 Tacoma students to school each day.

The current contract between Tacoma Public Schools and Durham was signed in 2013, and runs through Aug. 31, 2018. It has been amended several times. In 2015, the school district added an estimated $400,000 to its Durham payments to increase drivers’ wages by $2 an hour. With that increase, the entry level wage grew to $16 an hour and the average wage climbed to $18 an hour.

The contract does not contain much language about what happens in the event of a driver strike. It does say that the district and Durham agree that if the company is affected by “labor unrest or strikes,” the school district can assume operation of the buses.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635, @DebbieCafazzo

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