Charleston bus strike highly possible, state board OKs emergency use of out-of-state drivers
Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley doesn’t know when or whether a bus driver strike will happen, but she described that possibility as “highly likely.”
She urged families to begin thinking about possible transportation alternatives for their children, and she said the broader community also should be prepared for additional traffic.
“We’re giving people as much advanced notice as possible,” she said. “The reason we’re being proactive is we want people to recognize that we might not find out until the actual morning of the strike.”
Union officials said late Tuesday they do not want to strike but will do so if negotiations reach an impasse.
Earlier Wednesday morning, the South Caorlina Board of Education unanimously approved an emergency resolution that will help the school district provide bus service in case a strike occurs.
The board temporarily waived some state certification requirements for out-of-state drivers responding to a potential strike. These drivers would have to have their commercial driver’s licenses but wouldn’t have gone through the state’s training program.
State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais urged the bus drivers’ union not to strike, and he said he supported the district’s request because “we always must put the interest of students first.”
Teamsters Local 509 is the union representing bus drivers in Charleston, Dorchester 2 and Beaufort. It has been negotating on behalf of drivers in each district on a new employment contract since last summer, and drivers in Charleston and Dorchester 2 voted to authorize a strike if they’re unsatisfied with the company’s offer.
The biggest issue for both appears to be drivers’ pay and benefits.
Negotiations focused on Charleston’s contract Monday and Tuesday, and a deal was not reached. Talks were slated to focus on Dorchester 2 today and Thursday.
Charleston and Dorchester 2 school leaders said they’re figuring out contingency transportation plans should a strike be called.
Check back www.postandcourier.com as further details become available.