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Wages still sticking point in student-transportation dispute in Plum

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Dear Editor:

After negotiating for a year with the school district, we have reached agreement on all areas of the contract except wages.

The contract expired July 31, 2012, and we have continued to work without a contract.

The school district is entertaining a bid to contract student transportation to First Student Transportation.

Our efforts to reach an agreement have been made more difficult because the contractor, who was the lowest bidder, has been allowed to rebid twice at a lower price each time.

The original bid to supply service is only lower than our current transportation budget because of a one-time offer to buy the bus fleet (which has been purchased with your tax dollars) for $l.4 million.

Once this money is used to balance the first year's deficit, what will the district sell off next year and the year after that to cover ongoing deficits?

A fact-finding report giving the employees a wage freeze for one year and increases of 25 cents and 35 cents over a three-year contract has been accepted twice by the employees and rejected twice by the district.

The employees have offered wage concessions, which have not been accepted by the district.

The latest offer from the district is a 20-percent reduction in wages for all bargaining-unit members or acceptance of employment with independent contractor First Student for a lesser wage than we are now making and unemployment benefits during school recesses without benefits, union representation or pension provisions and no guarantee that all current school district employees would be hired or retained.

The approximate salaries of the school district administration (who have all gotten raises of at least 2 percent) totals about $2 million plus benefits representing more than the total budget of the transportation department.

If the administration were required to take the same loss of 20 percent and loss of benefits the savings over three years would be about $3.25 million.

It has not been proven that there would be any guaranteed savings with outsourcing, especially going forward, but it has been proven over the years that district-operated transportation is competitive and beneficial to the students and parents of the district.

We encourage the parents and students of the district to contact school board members and show their support for the transportation department and the bus drivers who have been taking the students to school safe and efficiently for more than 30 years.

Donna MeanorPresident of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1595

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