Approved school bus company contract increases hours, wages for union workers

BUS DRIVERS, monitors and aides with the Service Employees International Union 1199 New England recently approved a new contract with First Student Inc. that includes more hours and a wage increase.

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island school bus drivers, monitors and aides are guaranteed an extra 7.5 hours of weekly work and a 19% pay bump under a recently approved contract between the labor union and the bus company.

The Nov. 9 contract between Service Employees International Union 1199 New England and First Student Inc. was “overwhelmingly” approved by the 275 union members who work for the private bus contractor, although a vote breakdown was not available, according to a union spokeswoman.

The agreement comes after months of failed negotiations over minimum hours and pay for union laborers, with the union threatening to strike if its conditions were not met. A tentative agreement was reached on Nov. 1, the day before the strike was scheduled to start, PBN previously reported.

The new contract, which took effect immediately, increases the minimum weekly hours guaranteed to First Student’s union workers from 20 to 27.5 hours while offering a 19% boost to combined wages to “out them on a path to economic independence,” Jesse Martin, SEIU’s executive vice president, said in an emailed statement.

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First Student is a private bus contractor that serves public schools in Cranston, Lincoln and West Warwick, as well as private and specialty schools statewide. If union workers had gone on strike, nearly 1,000 public school students spanning 79 bus routes could have been affected, according to the R.I. Department of Education.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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