Boston school bus drivers stage illegal work action

Bus service disruptions, delays likely today for Boston Public Schools, Boston charter, private and parochial students

BPS student absences will be excused due to the unauthorized disruption

 

BOSTON –United Steelworkers of America Local 8751, which represents approximately 700 school bus drivers in the city of Boston, is staging an illegal work action this morning aimed at disrupting school bus service to students in BPS, private, parochial and charter schools.

Today’s unauthorized protest appears to be connected to the Union’s ongoing opposition to changes that ensure driver safety and suitability, steps to improve on-time performance, and the new web tool that allows families to track the location of their child’s school bus in real time. At this time the protest involves approximately 300 drivers who are refusing to operate school buses today. This means nearly half of the 33,000 students who ride school buses will be impacted.

While all schools will be open on normal schedules, Boston school officials are warning families to expect significant school bus delays and some trip cancellations. Because of this, students will not be marked late and absences will be marked as “excused” in the Boston Public Schools during the disruption.

Families can find updated information at bostonpublicschools.org. BPS will attempt to list buses that are running and not running but this information will not be available until officials can begin to track the impact. Automated phone calls are also being sent to all families this morning. The district has also expanded its Transportation Hotline to answer families’ questions at (617) 635-9520 and the Mayor’s 24-Hour-Hotline is available at (617) 635-4500.Families can also check the location of their school bus in real time using the “Where’s My School Bus” app, at http://schoolbus.bostonpublicschools.org.

“This action is an unacceptable attempt to shut down our entire school system because the Union is unhappy with efforts to increase safety and improve on-time service,” said BPS Interim Superintendent John McDonough. “By failing to work these drivers are denying children their rides to school and are inconveniencing thousands of families. I want to apologize to all of our families and ask for their patience as we continue to press forward on these needed improvements to safety, on-time performance and parents’ ability to track the location of their child’s school bus.”

 

Why is this happening?

This summer BPS contracted with a new provider, Veolia Transportation, to operate the city’s bus fleet. The new partnership is designed to improve service and safety and modernize fleet operations. Veolia agreed to continue to employ the same bus drivers who had worked under the previous provider, First Student, at the same salaries.

Veolia is making changes to improve safety, technology and on-time performance, including:

  • Additional driver certifications that match federal transportation standards
  • Requirements that each driver must physically check in with a supervisor to ensure they are ready to operate a bus, rather than take the keys home every night
  • computer-based payroll system that replaces paper records
  • Making existing GPS location data available to parents through the ‘Where’s my School Bus’ app
  • Launching a ‘safety desk’ to improve immediate communication between drivers, dispatchers and BPS staff in an emergency

BPS and Veolia will pursue all avenues necessary to restore school bus service. According to the existing contract, involvement in an illegal work action such as the one underway today could be grounds for immediate termination.

 

About Boston’s school bus system

  • Veolia Transportation contracts with the Boston Public Schools to operate a school bus fleet that travels approximately 25,901 miles per day, of which 64 percent percent are to and from BPS schools. The rest are to charter, private and parochial programs – including to private placement special education programs that are not available in BPS schools.
  • In total we transport about 33,194 students to and from 228 schools on 732 buses. Bus drivers are the employees of Veolia, not the City of Boston.
  • Approximately 92 percent of the city’s school buses arrive on time every morning and 98 percent of buses arrive within ten minutes of the start of school.
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