DPS bus drivers to vote on tentative contract Sunday

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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DPS bus drivers to vote on tentative contract Sunday

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

UPDATE @ 12:06 p.m. (April 6):

Dayton school bus drivers will gather on Sunday afternoon to review the latest tentative contract agreement with school district officials.

By 5 p.m. Sunday, the drivers will have either ratified the contract – putting parents’ minds at ease and setting up more than two years of labor peace -- or rejected the deal, leaving just over 24 hours until a 12:01 a.m. Tuesday strike deadline.

RELATED: Dayton school bus drivers’ union: District ‘is forcing us out’ on strike

The chief negotiator for the drivers’ union did not return calls seeking comment Friday. Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli did not immediately comment when asked about the tentative deal, or about DPS plans if the contract is rejected.

UPDATE @ 8:45 p.m. (April 5):

Dayton Public Schools and the district’s bus drivers have reached another tentative agreement on a contract, according to a joint statement released Thursday night, but there are still two steps remaining to avoid a strike next Tuesday.

“The transportation staff and the Board of Education for Dayton Public Schools are happy to announce they have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with the assistance of federal mediation,” a statement released by DPS spokeswoman Marsha Bonhart said.

Just before that announcement, smiling representatives of the bus drivers union (Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 627) left DPS headquarters, saying a tentative agreement had been reached, but declining further comment.

Negotiators for the district and the drivers union have reached tentative agreements before during their nine-month negotiation process, but each time, when those deals went for a vote before the full membership of the drivers’ union, they were rejected. It is unclear whether the full drivers union will vote on the new deal Friday, or at a later time. They are scheduled to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

RELATED: Dayton school bus drivers’ union: District ‘is forcing us out’ on strike

Dayton Public Schools is currently on spring break. Schools reopen Monday, with bus drivers scheduled to be in service that day.

“The parties are optimistic that this agreement will avoid the union strike scheduled for Tuesday,” the joint statement said.

If the drivers union ratifies the contract, the school board also would have to ratify the contract to make it official. The board is not scheduled to meet until Tuesday. However, based on past practice with the teachers’ union, it is possible the drivers would report for work Tuesday morning, if given assurances from the board that the deal would be ratified.

UPDATE @ 8:20 p.m. (April 5): "The transportation staff and the Board of Education for Dayton Public Schools are happy to announce they have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with the assistance of federal mediation," according to a statement district spokeswoman Marsha Bonhart released.

“The parties are optimistic that this agreement will avoid the union strike scheduled for Tuesday, April 10, 2018.”

EARLIER REPORT (April 4)

Dayton Public Schools isn’t saying much about a potential strike by school bus drivers next week. Neither is the union representing drivers.

That frustrates Julie Arias, whose daughter and the children of her neighbors are among more than 10,000 students bused to school each day.

Neither Arias nor other parents in her DeWeese Ridgecrest neighborhood have received word from Dayton Public Schools regarding an alternate transportation plan if drivers, as threatened, strike next week.

“I haven’t heard anything, and it’s problematic,” Arias said. “Let’s do this now. Let’s not wait until 1 a.m. on Sunday.”

Dayton students return to school Monday from spring break, but bus drivers have authorized a strike that could start Tuesday, the day important state tests are to begin.

DPS and the 145-member bus drivers’ union, Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 627, have negotiated for nearly nine months without agreement on a new contract.

The silence from both sides continued Wednesday: A district spokeswoman said there was nothing new to report, and a union representative did not return phone and email requests for comment.

After drivers filed the strike notice, the district said it would immediately produce an alternate transportation plan.

“To ensure that transportation services for students are not disrupted as a result of any strike, the board will immediately prepare a strike plan, including contracting with outside busing providers and providing information to parents about what to expect,” a Dayton Public Schools’ release last week said.

It’s unclear when the two sides last met or when they will next bargain, but Arias said parents need to begin planning now for the most certain disruption to come if drivers strike next week.

“I know that many parents have made special arrangements to get their children on the bus each morning, and some parents are off to their own jobs before their children get on the bus,” she said.

In her case, the household clock would need to be set at least 45 minutes ahead.

Arias said some parents don’t have cars to transport their children to school, and for those who do: “If everyone is driving their child to school, the car drop-off lane is going to be a big challenge in front of every school.”

The union-filed strike notice takes effect during a week students are set to take state-required testing, timing the district claims is no coincidence.

“It appears that the strike has been intentionally scheduled at a time to cause the district the most harm due to student testing,” the district said in a release last week.

When reached last week, Jim Gollings, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees regional director and chief negotiator for the drivers local said retroactive pay, extra duty hours, wages and “mandating” drivers to go past the scheduled shifts all remained concerns.

Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw, who urged both the district and its teachers to settle a dispute last year, hopes the drivers and district can find agreement now.

“It’s certainly very important students get to school and get a quality education,” he said. “I hope that both parties continue talking and work this out, short of shutting down service.”

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