Dayton school bus drivers: ‘We’re happy that we’ve averted a strike’

More than 10,000 young students who ride Dayton Public Schools buses to DPS, charter and Catholic schools will be on their usual schedules with their usual drivers Tuesday, after a drivers strike was narrowly averted.

The unionized bus drivers — members of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 627 — on Sunday evening “overwhelmingly accepted” the tentative agreement that their negotiators had reached Thursday night with Dayton’s school board.

PREVIOUSLY: Dayton schools chief says ball is in drivers’ court

“We’re happy to say that the strike has been called off and settled,” said Jim Gollings, regional director for OAPSE and chief negotiator for the drivers. “We are now looking for the board to do their part and ratify the agreement as soon as possible.”

Dayton school board President William Harris said Monday afternoon that he expects the board to vote on the contract at Tuesday’s meeting. The drivers were originally scheduled to go on strike Tuesday morning, but they agreed to drive as usual Tuesday, with the assumption that the school board would ratify the deal later in the day.

PREVIOUSLY: Union negotiator says DPS is forcing drivers out

Both sides said they are very happy that students’ education would not be disrupted.

“It’s vitally important for them to be able to get to school, and we’re happy that we’ve averted a strike,” Harris said.

Neither side would comment yet on the details of the final agreement. Gollings said there have been “a lot of changes” from previous tentative agreements the sides had reached. The full membership of the drivers union had voted down those previous pacts that had been reached by negotiators on both sides.

LAST FALL: On-time performance improves for Dayton school buses

The final deal is a three-year contract, but since it is back dated to the start of the school year, it will expire in summer 2020.

The parties’ previous tentative agreement had offered 10 to 15 percent raises to the drivers, which would take their starting pay from $13.85 per hour to roughly $15.75. That’s still lower than most surrounding districts, but DPS officials said better benefits and more guaranteed hours per day make up for the wage gap.

Gollings said the drivers had four concerns about the previous tentative agreement – how retroactive raises or bonuses would be handled for this school year, the pay scale that was settled on, how “extra duty hours” were parceled out to drivers, and practices where drivers were asked to go past the end of their shift.

LAST CONTRACT: Timeline of DPS’ 2015 strike threat from drivers

This process is similar to what happened in April 2015, when a DPS bus strike was averted with 10 hours to spare after a tense, two-week standoff. In both cases, the drivers’ contract had expired the previous summer, but drivers continued working while negotiations continued through the school year.

“We’d like to thank all the parents of Dayton for their support, and we’d like to thank the kids that we take to school,” Gollings said. “Their drivers will be back on Tuesday – they don’t have to worry about it being somebody different (behind the wheel).”

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