School officials urging parents to make preparations for possible midday bus drivers strike

Durham School Services busses wait or students at Buist Academy. (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com) 1/22/13 Buy this photo

LATEST NEWS AS OF 4:30 p.m.: At a news conference today, Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley said the district has NOT been notified of potential strike, but she emphasized the need for parents to make alternative plans to get their children home from school should a midday strike be called.

Only children in wheelchairs would be eligible for transportation home in the event of midday bus strike, McGinley said. Schools will stay open until the last child is picked up, she said.

McGinley said she has been talking with Dorchester District 2 Superintendent Joe Pye and the two districts are sharing ideas on ways to deal with a potential drivers' strike.

The superintendent urged parents to keep abreast of news about the threatened strike by checking on websites and social media (see resource list below).

Teamsters Local 509, the union representing drivers, released a statement in response to Durham's press conference held earlier.

“Durham School Services initially told us they did not want to negotiate this contract through the media,” the statement read. “We have honored their request despite the fact that they have not done the same. We are not on strike. We have been in bargaining this week. We will be in bargaining again tomorrow.”

Durham officials said they hope to reach an agreement with the company that “improves safety and provides the drivers and monitors with dignity and respect.”

Previous updates:

LATEST NEWS as of 3:30 p.m.: Charleston County School Board called an emergency meeting. They're in a closed-door session discussing legal and safety issues related to the potential strike.

LATEST NEWS as of 2:30 p.m.: Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy mcGinley has called 4 p.m. press conference to talk about potential bus driver strike.

As of now, Charleston officials have not been notified of a driver strike, and the plan is for buses to run their regular routes on Thursday.

LATEST NEWS as of 1:30 p.m.: Durham School Services is negotiating with the Charleston union bus drivers today.

The union has reduced its demand for an increase from $1.50/hour to $1/hour. The company that employs the drivers plans to counter with a 45 cents per hour boost.

A Durham spokesman said it's highly unlikely for drivers to strike while negotiations are ongoing.

Negotiations will focus on union drivers in Beaufort Thursday.

Union drivers have not notified Charleston officials that they plan to strike Thursday, and buses will run their regular routes.

LATEST NEWS as of 10:30 a.m.: Durham School Services, bus drivers' employer, to speak with media at 1 p.m. today on latest negotiations. John Elliott, chairman emeritus of Durham School Services, will talk with reporters about the latest on negotiations with the union. Check back later for more details.

School buses in Charleston and Dorchester 2 are running their regular routes today.

Key issues:

Unionized bus drivers in Beaufort, Charleston and Dorchester 2 are poised to call a strike if they're not satisfied with their new contract from their employer, Durham School Services.

Negotiations have been going on since last summer, and the biggest issue is drivers' pay and benefits.

Key facts:

Talks between Durham and the union resumed Tuesday and will go through Thursday. A different district will be the focus of each day, but the order has not been disclosed.

Neither side will discuss details of drivers' demands or the company's position. The average Charleston bus driver is paid $14.65 per hour for 4 1/2 hours of work each day, and the union at one point requested a roughly 44 percent pay and benefit increase for the first year of a three-year deal, according to Charleston school officials. Drivers' pay would increase 20 percent in the two remaining years, according to the district.

The union has said those figures aren't accurate.

Until a deal is reached, a strike could be called in any of the three school districts. The union has not set a deadline on negotiations.

Key phone numbers and sources of help for parents who are worried:

Parents have been encouraged to make alternative transportation plans for their children in case a strike is called. For information on CARTA routes, call: (843) 745-4101.

Some parents have started organizing carpools and rideshares in case a strike is called. For more information or to sign up, go to: www.ccsdparents.com.

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments also has a free online resource, Trident Rideshare at tridentrideshare.com, that Charleston and Dorchester 2 parents can use to find carpools. Parents who don't have access to a computer can call: (843) 529-0400 extension 202 for more information.

Individual schools have been asked to come up with specific plans for their students in case a strike is called. For more information, call your child's school.

School district officials are communicating the latest information they have through the media and phone calls to parents. If parents aren't receiving those messages, call your child's school and ensure your information is updated.

Social media outlets for assistance:

On Twitter, follow @Diette or @postandcourier for the latest updates to media from both districts.

On Twitter, follow @ccsdconnects for the latest information from Charleston County schools and follow @dorchester_two for the latest from Dorchester 2 schools.

The community hashtag for updates on the potential driver strike is #chsbus

On Facebook, check www.facebook.com/diettecourrege and www.facebook.com/thepostandcourier for news updates.

On Facebook, follow Charleston County School District at www.facebook.com/CCSDconnects and follow Dorchester 2 at www.facebook.com/DorchesterSchoolDistrictTwo

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