Organizing/Transit- Bus drivers at BISD to find a new bus service company » Local News » Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Posted: September 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

Sept. 11, 2013

Bus drivers and monitors with Durham School Services on Monday asked Burleson ISD trustees to consider finding a new company to provide the district’s bus service.

The request came after contract negotiations between Durham and Transport Workers Union-Burleson Durham, the new union for Durham bus drivers and monitors in BISD.

BISD drivers and monitors in the Burleson school district could vote in October to go on strike, according to a union newsletter.

Union members spoke during the public comment section of the board meeting. Trustees could not discuss the issue because it was not on the agenda.

Michael Blood, a Durham bus driver and member of the team attempting to negotiate a contract between the union and the company, said that negotiations failed because Durham refused to allow union members the option of having their union dues withheld from their paychecks.

Blood said negotiations have been going for almost a year and that disagreement over the dues check-off option have stalled the process.

Blood also said the dues check-off option is “written into every other contract Durham has” with unions in other districts.

“We agreed to [all of Durham’s terms]. But in an effort to stop a contract, they refused us the dues check-off,” Blood said.

He said a federal mediator has been unable to help the two sides reach an agreement.

J.L. Gunter, a Durham employee and union member on the negotiating team, also spoke.

“When this contract [between BISD and Durham] comes up for renewal in February, I ask that you seriously think about going with someone else,” Gunter said.

Gunter said Durham considers the drivers and monitors to be part-time employees, even though they drive a.m. and p.m. routes, midday routes and to and from field trips. Because they are part-time employees, he said, they are not afforded any benefits.

Drivers and monitors receive no sick days. In the event of a death in a family, they receive three days of bereavement leave.

“If we have to be in the hospital, we get no pay, and when we are able to return to work, we are written up for being absent,” Gunter said.

The company’s treatment of its drivers and monitors leads to high turnover and low morale, he said, saying that union members are asking for a fair wage and benefits.

Durham is a part of National Express Corporation, which is the North American subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based National Express Group. National Express Corporation includes Durham School Services and Petermann in the U.S., and Stock Transportation in Canada, according to the company’s website.

National Express Corporation, headquartered in Warrensville, Ill., serves 450 school districts in 32 states and four Canadian provinces, and has a fleet of 20,000 buses, according to the website.

In an Aug. 28 letter to drivers and monitors, Clint Muhlenberg, Durham general manager for the Burleson area, wrote that “Durham’s Best and Final Offer was rejected by the employees who attended the ratification vote and voted this past week following the parties reaching tentative agreements on all items except Dues Check Off.

“Let me start by saying that we are not opposed to employees paying union dues if that is their choice. However, it is our position that this type of financial transaction is a private matter between employees and the union. If employees choose to pay the union directly, we will not stand in the way of that decision but as a company, we do no want to take on the responsibility of withholding dues from an employee’s paycheck.”

Muhlenberg said the company is disappointed that the offer was rejected.

“Our focus needs to continue to be on safe and reliable transportation for the students and families who rely on us,” he wrote.

In a recent company newsletter, Gunter, Blood and Steve Roberts, another member of the contract negotiation committee, said that the vote on Aug. 20 to reject Durham’s offer was unanimous.

The newsletter calls the company’s refusal to offer the dues check option “an insult to all the members in Burleson who work for Durham school bus services.”

According to the union newsletter, “Mr. Muhlenberg, it’s nice to hear you are not opposed to union members paying dues. Again, why does your company take, as you say, the financial transactions or responsibilities in all of its other union contracts all over the United States of America, but you continues to refuse the employees here in Burleson of their voluntary dues check off in your Best and Final contract offer?”

The letter concluded with the promise that shop stewards will keep union members informed on the planning and date of a meeting in October at which members will hold the possible strike authorization vote.

via Bus drivers at BISD to find a new bus service company » Local News » Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX.

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