Charleston, Dorchester 2 school buses running regular routes as union negotiations resume

Both Charleston and Dorchester 2 school districts intended to follow normal transportation schedules Tuesday. Buy this photo

While the local bus drivers’ union resumes negotiations today on a new employment contract, Charleston and Dorchester 2 school officials didn’t expect those talks to affect regularly scheduled bus transportation.

Neither district had been notified of a planned bus driver strike for today, and both districts intended to follow normal transportation schedules.

“Charleston County School District understands that this situation can change at any time, but at this time, we will operate as normal,” said Charleston schools spokesman Jason Sakran.

Parents still are encouraged to come up with alternative transportation plans should drivers decide to strike.

Durham School Services employs drivers in Beaufort, Charleston and Dorchester 2 school districts, and Teamsters Local 509 is the union representing those drivers.

Durham officials were in town last week trying to hash out a deal with the union, but that didn’t happen. The union has separate contracts for each district, and the biggest issue has been drivers’ pay.

Talks will last until Thursday, and each day will focus on a different district. Durham has not released the order in which districts will be discussed.

On Monday, Beaufort County drivers became the third and final contingent of the local union to authorize their leadership to call a strike. Charleston and Dorchester 2 union drivers gave their approval in recent weeks.

“We had to take a strike vote to get Durham to get serious in negotiations,” said L.D. Fletcher, Teamsters Local 509 president, in a statement. “We’ve met over 39 times with the contractor and they hadn’t moved on the key issues of concern to the drivers and monitors.”

Fletcher has not returned phone calls from The Post and Courier since Jan. 22. Statements are being released by the Teamsters’ national headquarters.

Until a deal is reached, drivers could choose to strike.

Meanwhile, Charleston school leaders are soliciting applications for school bus drivers. Officials said about 50 people have applied, and 26 of are eligible for interviews.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.

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