Charleston County residents will have to wait until Saturday to find out whether school bus drivers will strike, but that’s no longer a concern for Dorchester 2 or Beaufort County schools.
Union school bus drivers in Dorchester District 2 approved a contract offer from their employer, Durham School Services, on Tuesday, and Beaufort drivers did so Wednesday night.
Union school bus drivers in Charleston won’t vote on their offer until Saturday. If union members turn down the deal, drivers would go on strike Monday morning, said L.D. Fletcher, president of Teamsters Local 509.
The union is waiting until Saturday to vote in Charleston because too many drivers couldn’t be available for a weeknight meeting. Some drivers are in McClellanville and others are in Hollywood, and if they have after-school routes, they couldn’t be available until late, Fletcher said.
Charleston school officials said they had not received any official communication from Durham or the union, and said they would wait to comment until they did.
Beaufort, Charleston and Dorchester 2 hired Durham School Services to employ bus drivers and manage bus routes. The union has been negotiating on behalf of drivers in each district since the summer, and the threat of a strike has loomed over the Lowcountry since mid-January.
In Dorchester 2, Superintendent Joe Pye said the deal ended weeks of uncertainty and inconvenience suffered by families and educators. He was thankful for the agreement and for the efforts everyone made to create contingency plans in the event of a strike.
“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.
Union drivers in Dorchester 2 agreed to a five-year deal that will give them a 50-cent per hour raise the first year, and 45-cent per hour raises each of 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 driver’s salary had not been provided for Dorchester 2. In Charleston, drivers are making an average of $14.40 per hour, and drivers make an average of $14.65 in Beaufort.
Only three drivers in Dorchester 2 were opposed to the deal, and only four were opposed in Beaufort. Fletcher declined to say how many total drivers voted. He declined to give any details of the offer for Charleston or Beaufort drivers.
Durham School Services spokeswoman Carina Noble said the company had heard unofficially of the drivers’ vote in Dorchester 2.
“We are pleased with the progress that this suggests,” she said.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.