By ALEX MALM In addition to driving their routes, First Student school bus drivers took to their feet this week to call attention they are working without a contract. The drivers set up informational pickets on both sides of Strawberry Field Road in
In addition to driving their routes, First Student school bus drivers took to their feet this week to call attention they are working without a contract.
The drivers set up informational pickets on both sides of Strawberry Field Road in front of there First Student parks its buses with signs reading “unfair negotiating,” and “together we fight.”
Nick DeCristofaro, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 618 said the contract between the Warwick bus drivers and First Student expired on June 30. Warwick Schools has a $6.8 million contract with First Student to bus students. Since then he said that they have been working under their expired contract.
As of Wednesday bus services had not been interrupted by the union action.
But since negotiations have begun DeCristofaro said that First Student has been “slow on their feet.”
He said the last offer from First Student was a five-cent raise.
“They're not really negotiating in good faith,” he said. “It's just insulting.”
DeCristofaro said that bus drivers in other communities have better contracts than what has been proposed in Warwick thus far.
“They deserve better. Providence is only down the street and they’re getting much better,” he said. According to an Aug. 26 Beacon report, Susan Barbour, First Student senior location manager drivers are paid between $18 and $23 an hour.
Joe Cole the vice president of the union said that they wanted to bring attention to the situation, which is why they decided to have the informational picket on Monday.
“This is an informational picket designed to tell the City of Warwick and to tell First Student that we’re not happy,” said Cole. “As you can see we’re doing very well with this informational picket line. Hopefully this will open their eyes because we’re not going away, we're here.”
Cole said that the bus drivers have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic and they deserve to be recognized for it.
“These people have worked through COVID for the past year,” Cole said. “They’ve worked very hard and they’ve done an exceptional job with the kids that ride the bus making sure they have their masks on and doing other things that are thrown on them that aren’t technically contractual but they do it because of the welfare of the children.”
When asked if they have intentions of going on strike if their contract isn’t resolved Cole said “not as of right now.”
“We don’t want to do that because that ends the results of what we’re trying to achieve,” he said.
Francis McMahon, a spokesperson for First Student said that they weren’t aware that informational picketing was going to be taking place in Warwick.
“First Student was not informed that picketing by some of the bus drivers serving Warwick Public Schools was going to occur this (Monday) morning,” said McMahon. “First Student is in active negotiations with the union representing the drivers in Warwick and those negotiations have been productive. In fact, First Student and the union are meeting with a federal mediator on Wednesday and Friday of this week. We look forward to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement in the near future.”
DeCristofaro said that he is hopeful they will receive a deal that they think is fair.
“Hopefully First Student comes to the table,” he said.
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