Providence School Bus Drivers and Bus Company in Final Hours to Avert Strike

Thursday, September 20, 2018

 

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First Student, Teamsters Local 251, and a federal mediator will meet at 2 p.m on Thursday.

Providence school bus drivers, represented by the Teamsters Local 251, and bus company First Student are still locked in a contract battle, with a 2 p.m. meeting today with a federal mediator that will determine whether a contract can be reached -- or the Teamsters will strike.

"It is extremely unfortunate that the Teamsters are willing to disrupt the transportation of thousands of Providence students and threaten the retirement security of their own members at the same time," said First Student spokesperson Frank McMahon in a statement (see below). 

The Teamsters fired back.

"Unfortunately, First Student has a long and storied history of misleading and outright lying to their employees. After reading their press release, it seems that they plan to use the exact same dishonest and misleading tactics on the general public," said Nick Williams, Business Agent for the Teamsters Local 251. 

"The company did offer an increase to their contribution in the 401k,  but considering the fact that the Teamsters have had to sue First Student multiple times in Federal court due to their failure and at times, outright refusal to fund the current contractually obligated contributions to their employees 401k, the increased offer is considered an empty promise by our membership," said Williams.

First Student's Response to Teamster's Latest Contract Vote 

On Wednesday, McMahon provided the following the latest Teamsters' vote:

"First Student is committed to serving the Providence Public School District, and we stand ready to work with the federal mediator to continue negotiations with Teamsters Local 251 representatives to avoid any disruption to student transportation service.

We have been in negotiations with the Teamsters Local 251 for months and have provided our valued Providence drivers with a generous contract offer which included increased 401(k) contributions; paying 80 percent -- increasing to 85 percent -- of medical premiums; and paid sick time beyond what is required by state law.  The offer also included immediate pay raises of up to 12 percent, with increases of up to 51 percent through the life of the contract. Experienced drivers would make almost $29 per hour in three years.

That offer was unfortunately voted down due to the leadership of the Teamsters Local 251 who continue to insist that our Providence drivers be forced to join the New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension Fund.  That fund is currently underfunded by $3.6 billion with liabilities that have increased by $700 million in just the last two years, and is classified as in “critical and declining” status by the U.S. Treasury Department.  

It is extremely unfortunate that the Teamsters are willing to disrupt the transportation of thousands of Providence students and threaten the retirement security of their own members at the same time. 

A reasonable and generous contract offer has already been made by First Student and we urge the Teamsters Local 251 to return to the table and accept this contract."

Teamsters Fire Back

Williams responded in turn with the following statement:

"Teamster Local 251 have proudly represented the Bus Drivers that have been transporting students to and from school in the City of Providence, day in and day out, for decades. Our members love what they do, and they want only to continue doing what they love. 

Unfortunately, First Student has a long and storied history of misleading and outright lying to their employees. After reading their press release, it seems that they plan to use the exact same dishonest and misleading tactics on the general public.

The company did offer an increase to their contribution in the 401k, but considering the fact that the Teamsters have had to sue First Student multiple times in Federal court due to their failure and at times, outright refusal to fund the current contractually obligated contributions to their employees 401k, the increased offer is considered an empty promise by our membership. 

First Student is completely out of touch with their own employees. We have had to file multiple unfair labor practice charges during the course of these negotiations and our members have had their fill of false promises and lies from First Student. They want and deserve a secure retirement and the fact is that they simply do not trust First Student to make the promised contributions to their 401k without a lawsuit.

It is beyond abhorrent that First Student not only created this retirement dispute when they decided to shred the contract and pillage their hard-working employees retirement funds, but now they are making it clear that they would rather disrupt the lives of thousands of working parents, and jeopardize the safe transportation of thousands of Providence students than do the right thing and provide a secure retirement for their employees. We stand in awe of their wanton disregard for their own employees as well as the students of the City of Providence. 

No one wants to strike. In order to avoid an unnecessary strike, Teamsters Local 251 has taken the steps to adjust First Students last, best and final offer to include a secure retirement. The members have already voted 78-2 in favor of the adjusted deal.

All First Student has to do is accept the pre-ratified offer in mediation today at 2:00pm and the strike is averted. If they refuse, they have made the decision to force our hand, and our only option at that time may be to strike. My hope is that First Student steps away from the empty promises of their 401k offer and does the right thing by its employees as well as the students and the parents that are stuck in the middle."

 
 

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