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Plum school board hikes wages for substitute bus drivers

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 10:10 p.m.

Plum School District officials hope a pay hike for substitute bus drivers will draw more interest in the job.

The Plum School Board recently approved a nearly $3 an hour raise — from $11.75 to $14.50 for the position.

In addition, the district will pay for the substitute drivers' training that costs about $500 per driver and for criminal background checks and other clearances that cost about $50 per candidate.

“We need to provide some additional incentive,” Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said. “We can't get bus drivers.”

Board member Tom McGough voted against the move. McGough thinks the money should be used to pay the district's full-time bus drivers.

“I'm uncomfortable with that,” McGough said.

The district and its transportation workers have been unable to agree on a new contract.

The sticking point is wages, according to Donna Meanor, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1595.

The 61 bus drivers, mechanics and bus aides are working under the terms of a five-year contract that expired July 31, 2012.

The school board last month voted to reject a fact finder's recommendation that would have frozen wages in the first year and given 25-cents-an-hour and 35-cents-an-hour increases, respectively, in the second and third years of the three-year proposal.

Bus drivers currently are paid $21.14 an hour. Mechanics make $23.45 an hour, and bus aides are paid $13.06 an hour.

The district's proposal called for cuts that equate to drivers making $16.91 an hour, mechanics making $19.22 and aides making $8.83 per hour in the first year.

In the second year, drivers would make $16.99 an hour, while mechanics would make $19.30 and aides would make $8.91.

In the third year, drivers would be paid $17.10 an hour, mechanics would make $19.41 and aides would make $9.02. Board member Joe Tommarello said though he voted against the fact finder's recommendations because of the increased cost to the district, he opposes outsourcing or hiring a private company to handle the district's transportation.

The district solicited bids from transportation firms.

“My number one objective is to not outsource,” Tommarello said. “I want to negotiate with them (district workers).”

District business Manager Eugene Marraccini said district officials and union representatives are discussing the next move.

Solicitor Lee Price has said the two sides could go back to negotiating or conduct non-binding arbitration.

Walter Comin, vice president of the transportation union, opposes the substitute-driver incentive program.

“It is an insult to the loyal employees who have served the district well for years.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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