MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — School bus drivers in Meriden are on strike Friday after their contract with New Britain Transportation (NBT) expired with no deal in sight.
Bus drivers arrived at the New Britain Transportation office at 1748 North Broad St. before sunrise, demanding fair pay and better benefits. The Local 671 Teamsters Union called it the worst contract in the state, saying the drivers receive low wages, zero paid holidays and health care assistance, and no company contribution to the 401k.
“We love these kids, we do,” bus driver and parent Christa Davila said. “We don’t want to stop driving. Again, we know this isn’t just going to affect parents. It will affect kids and schools, but we want them to do the right thing. We feel that sometimes we are not appreciated. We do not get paid for holidays. We do not get extra compensation for the extra time we’re here.”
Picketing is expected to wrap up at 5 p.m. Friday, but the strike could last into next week.
“NBT cannot believe the Teamsters total disregard of the children of Meriden for their own financial gain,” a spokesperson for NBT told News 8 Friday. “They have terrorized their very own members who came to work to get as many children to school, and that is disgraceful. The union has disrupted negotiations with threats.”
Kevin Scarpati, the mayor of Meriden, spoke on behalf of the city, urging both sides to come together and find both short and long-term solutions.
“Our parents stepped up. Our teachers stepped up. Our administrators stepped up. We need NBT and the Teamsters to step up as well,” he said. “Whatever that resolution is ultimately lies between those two parties. If we can find how we can intervene in any way, and step in, I’m happy to do that.”
Scarpati also acknowledged the tremendous impact this has on students and families. News 8 learned about half of the district — about 4,000 students — rely on daily transportation.
“Starting school the first week is hard week is hard enough for them,” grandparent Wanda McShea said. Now, not having transportation is a lot on a child and the parent.”
Many students were dropped off and picked up on Friday, while others walked. Meriden police provided extra patrol to ensure walkers got to school safely.
In a letter to the school community, Meriden Superintendent Mark Benigni said families should also prepare for transportation on Tuesday to be impacted. Schools will open one hour earlier and one hour later to provide flexibility to families.
Parents will receive a ParentSquare message, and updates will be posted on the district’s website.
The video below is from News 8 at 5 p.m. on Aug. 31.