Miami-Dade Bus Drivers Boycott Benefit Cuts, Some Students Stranded
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MEDLEY (CBSMiami) – Plenty of South Florida parents are up in arms after learning their children were not picked up by their school buses Friday morning due to a bus driver sickout.
Miami-Dade County school bus drivers are angry and upset they have not reached a contract agreement with the school district which has imposed cuts in their take home pay. Drivers saw increases in their health insurance premiums.
One driver told CBS4’s Gary Nelson her check was slashed nearly $200.
More than twice the usual number of drivers called in sick Friday, something the union said it does not support but can easily understand.
“The superintendent told us that we were family. Well I don’t feel like we’re family when these workers have not had a raise in 5 to 6 years. There have been budget cuts, ask them to do more, retired people doing the jobs of two people,” said Byron Houghtaling from the bus drivers’ union.
The school district said if the union wants a deal, it needs to bargain in good faith.
Dozens of drivers showed up at the Miami-Dade County bus depot, located at 9900 NW S. River Drive in Medley, Friday to complain about their paychecks.
As for the sickout, the district said some routes were delayed Friday but none were cancelled.
One group of students from Robert Morgan Senior High School was never picked up from their stop in Country Walk early Friday.
In addition, Coral Reef Senior High sent an automated voice mail and email to parents that read, “Due to unforeseen circumstances, please be advised that school bus transportation may be delayed on Friday, January 10, 2014.”
One person wrote on CBSMiami’s Twitter Wall, “My child had no transportation to school today!”
Monday, drivers are threatening a massive sickout in protest of the benefit cuts which the union said it does not condone and the school system said would be illegal because Florida law bars striking by public employees. The school system would view the sickout as a strike.
The district said automated phone calls and emails will be sent to parents on Monday to inform them if their child’s bus will be running late or cancelled. Parents should make plans to drive their children to school and have them picked up.
School Board Member Carlos Curbelo condemned the AFSCME strike in a statement Friday afternoon.
“Using children and putting their safety at risk is not an acceptable negotiation tactic. It is shameful and reprehensible. I call upon the Superintendent and his team to take swift action to address the conduct of the AFSCME union members that abandoned our students this morning. Our children and their families do not deserve this.”
Miami-Dade County Public Schools transports approximately 60,000 students a day and operates 1,050 school bus routes using a fleet of 1,300 school buses. It’s not known exactly how many bus drivers are boycotting Friday or how many plan to take part in Monday’s threatened sick out.
If you have any questions regarding your child’s school bus transportation, please call the individual school.