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St. Tammany Parish school bus drivers stage sick-out over pay raise issue

63 drivers called out Friday afternoon at 14 schools.
Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 9:57 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A sick out among St. Tammany Parish school bus drivers sent parents scrambling to pick up their students from 14 schools Friday afternoon.

“They thought they should tell us at the last minute?” one parent said.

“It didn’t specify which route, which bus wasn’t going to be available,” Stanley Lange said.

Parents got a call around 2 p.m. that there wouldn’t be enough busses. 63 drivers called out throughout the day after dropping students off in the morning, so families had to make a quick change.

“Today actually worked out great, but normally, no, it would have been bad,” Jeff Roberts said.

A lot of parents we spoke with said there’s been issues with overloaded drivers all year.

“Either not showing up or having those switch to go on another bus and that’s an alarming parent because you’re trusting these people to get your kids home every day and not know what who’s gonna show up what time they’re gonna show up, I can’t function like that as a parent,” Marice Collins said.

When asked if they knew why the drivers called out...

“They’ve been pushed aside for too long and enough’s enough,” Angele Reign said.

Despite an hour long wait, many parents believe the bus owner operators deserve the raise they’ve been fighting for.

“For the amount of work that they do and putting up with all the COVID restrictions they’ve had to put up with as well,” Roberts said.

“They got to do what they got to do because inflation is out of control, so they’re getting hit in the pocketbook and they got bills to pay too,” Reign said.

The union has been fighting to raise operational pay for the owner operators since July, money that hasn’t been increased since 1986.

“Think about the inflationary impact of not updating something since 1986,” St. Tammany Federation President, Brant Osborn said. “The school system itself is affluent, our taxpayers are extremely generous, but it’s like our school board just hoards the money.”

A driver told me he makes a total of $43,000 a year, but he just had to pay $1,100 for gas over the past month and he needs parts that he has to get from out of state.

However, Osborn says he didn’t know about the sick-out ahead of time and doesn’t condone it.

“We want a sense of urgency, but we just can’t do something that’s going to impact families in this way,” Osborn said.

This came to a boiling point after a fiery school board meeting Thursday night. Osborn says they were stonewalled.

The board has offered a stop-gap raise until contract negotiations begin, but Osborn says it’s just not enough.

“The emotion is there and it’s raw, it’s just upsetting on a lot of levels,” Osborn said.

Osborn says a bill was recently blocked this summer that would have increased that state money and that’s why they’re in this crisis.

He says it will all come up again in the union’s contract negotiations on February 23.

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