At First Student, the school bus contracting division of UK multinational First Transit, drivers came close to striking over a company demand that new hires would pay 50 percent of health insurance premiums (more than current employees). Such a “two-tier” provision would have created a permanent division in the workforce.
Nearly 20 months after the expiration of their previous contract, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 authorized a strike. The union trained strike leaders, collected food donations, and set a May 1 deadline for the company to accept the union’s final offer, after which the drivers could strike at any time. Late in the day May 1, First Student emailed a proposal without the concessionary two-tier demand.
The new agreement, which members ratified May 7 by a 168-to-5 vote, continues the previous contract’s “stairstep” schedule in which new employees pay 35 percent of health premium first year, and 25, 15, and 5 percent in subsequent years, until the fifth year, when the company pays the whole premium.
Wages for the unit currently start at $12.90 an hour and top out at $15.76 after five years. The new agreement expires Aug. 31, 2015 and provides for three annual raises of 2 percent each, retroactive to the Aug. 31, 2012, expiration of the previous contract.
Portland Public Schools’ in-house school bus drivers also ratified a new contract May 7, which rolls over terms of their previous agreement with the district. They will get wages of 1.5 percent in the new three-year deal, which expires June 30, 2017. Wages currently start at $13.94 and rise to $17.66 after five years.