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Members of the Teamsters Local 174, the union representing school bus drivers in Seattle, said contract negotiations with their employer, First Students, broke off recently. The teamster’s said First Student’s latest contract proposal was “absurd,” and would effectively “dump” the cost of employee healthcare on taxpayers through the Affordable Care act. The two sides could not come to an agreement on wages and retirement benefits either, the Teamsters said Tuesday in a release.
“First Student has taken positions on issues at the bargaining table that are absurd,” Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks said.
Seattle Public Schools pays First Student about $ 27 million a year in transportation services, KPLU.org reported. Since drivers are not employed directly by the district, school officials have little say in the negotiations.
According to KPLU, Seattle School bus drivers earn between $ 13 and $ 21 an hour currently. The school district pays First Student $ 27 million a year in transportation services.
The drivers voted to unionize six months ago, KPLU reports, and so far First Students and the Teamsters Union have failed to come up with any sort of workable contract. Issues like wage, healthcare and retirement benefits are all on the table, officials from both sides said.
The Teamsters are working with Seattle Public Schools to ensure that parents know about a possible strike, and prepare transportation for their student. Some 7,000 Seattle Public Schools students would not be affected by the strike, officials said, because their transportation is provided with Metro bus passes.