UPDATE as of 3:56 p.m.

Dorchester 2 Superintendent Joe Pye said he’s thankful an agreement has been reached between the school bus drivers’ union and Durham.

The new contract brings to an end the uncertainty and inconvenience suffered by school staff and families, he said. He said he’s grateful for the effort everyone made to create contingency plans in case a strike happens.

“We appreciate the patience, understanding, and support of parents as we all focused on the safety and welfare of our children during a difficult time,” he said.

EARLIER IN THE DAY

Union bus drivers in Dorchester 2 approved a contract offer from their employer, Durham School Services, on Tuesday night, ending the threat of a potential strike in the suburban district.

That possibility remains in Beaufort and Charleston counties until their union drivers vote. Beaufort union bus drivers are slated to vote tonight on the company’s offer, and a vote in Charleston will happen on Saturday.

If union members turn down the deal, drivers will go on strike Monday morning, said L.D. Fletcher, president of Teamsters Local 509. Fletcher did not take a position on the contract; it’s up to drivers to decide whether to approve it, he said.

The five-year deal in Dorchester 2 will give drivers a .50 cent raise the first year, and .45 cent raise the following four years. Drivers also will have five paid holidays. This is the first time Dorchester 2 drivers have had a contract with Durham, and this is their first raise in three years, Fletcher said.

An average drivers’ salary had not been provided for Dorchester 2. In Charleston, drivers are making an average of $14.40.

Only three drivers in Dorchester 2 were opposed to the deal, and Fletcher declined to say how many total drivers voted. He declined to give any details of the proposed offer for Charleston and Beaufort.

Durham School Services Spokeswoman Carina Noble said the company had heard unofficially of the vote in Dorchester 2.

“... we are pleased with the progress that this suggests,” she said.

Beaufort, Charleston and Dorchester 2 have hired Durham School Services to employ its bus drivers and manage its bus routes. The union has been negotiating with the company on new contracts since last summer, and the threat of a strike has loomed over the Lowcountry for weeks.

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