MIAMI (CBSMiami) – School buses in Miami-Dade rolled out as usual Monday morning thanks to a weekend of talks between Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, his staff and union leaders.
It was a very different story last Friday when a large number of bus drivers called out sick to protest a reduction in the pay with money going toward their health insurance premiums.
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 sickout caused disruptions to more than 50 routes. It was a big inconvenience for parents who, at the last minute, had to take their kids to school and pick them up.
To avoid the same thing from happening on Monday, Carvalho and district administrators held conversations with the executive leadership of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) on Saturday, and the groups met face-to-face on Sunday.
“We are very pleased with the fact that our partners in negotiations, the union, has finally reacted to our invitation to come to the table, after all, we have a salary increase offer and an offer to reduce healthcare costs so I think those are two very compelling reasons to negotiate in good faith,” said Carvalho.
They agreed that the priorities for both groups would be the safe, secure, timely transportation of school students, and expediting collective bargaining efforts in the next few days to explore salary increases and the mitigation of health care insurance costs.
Messages were also being sent to all AFSCME employees urging them to show up for work on Monday.
“This is a message from Miami-Dade County Public Schools. You are a valuable member of the M-DCPS family. We understand your frustration. We remain willing and able to go back to the bargaining table with your union to hopefully reach an agreement which will resolve your concerns with salary and health insurance costs. We know you will be at work every day because you are consummate professionals and you care about the children you serve.”
Monday morning, the school district reported that there were some minor issues but there was not a wide spread problem of drivers calling out sick.
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.