MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The school bus driver strike in Meriden is over after the union reached a temporary deal with New Britain Transportation (NBT).
All public school buses will resume normal operations on Wednesday, according to Mark Benigni, the superintendent of Meriden Public Schools.
“While Meriden Public Schools was not a party in the dispute, we worked closely with New Britain Transportation and Teamsters Local 671 to help resolve the strike quickly,” Benigni wrote Tuesday in a statement to the school community.
School bus drivers represented by the Teamsters Local 671 union went on strike early Friday morning after their contract with NBT expired.
The drivers are excited and relieved to return to their jobs. They told News 8 that they love what they do and were happy to “vote” yes on a temporary contract that includes a 6% raise that will be implemented starting Wednesday.
The union called the previous contract the worst in the state, saying the drivers received low wages, zero paid holidays and health care assistance, and no company contribution to the 401k.
“NBT cannot believe the Teamsters total disregard of the children of Meriden for their own financial gain,” a spokesperson for NBT told News 8 on 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.”
News 8 contacted NBT Tuesday afternoon for comment on the temporary contract.
The bid for a new contract is now open, and once a new company is picked, negotiations with the union will start again.
Bus drivers were elated to reach a deal.
“We’ve been so united, we did this, we are super strong about it,” said Christa Davila. “We stood our ground and we made it.”
In the temporary deal, the hourly rate for drivers will increase by 6%. Drivers will also be paid a regular hourly rate for contracted drivers, instead of the typical reduced rate. New Britain Transportation has agreed to no longer be the bus company for Meriden schools.
The city is now accepting bids for a new bus company and the union said they will negotiate for paid holidays, healthcare and 401k’s.
The Board of Education has until December to pick a new company. During a press conference Tuesday evening, Meriden schools superintendent Mark Benigni said he is hopeful a new bus company will be hired in six weeks. Two companies have already expressed interest.
In the meantime, New Britain Transporation is contracted under the temporary deal to employ drivers and provide transportation.
However, Benigni warned parents that bus schedules might not be back to normal on Wednesday morning.
“I really don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, I don’t know if every driver is coming back,” he said. “Some might have chosen another job option, some might have looked for work with another bus company.”