GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County bus drivers say there will be a walkout next week, unless they get a raise.
For months, FOX8 reported on the driver shortage, driver pay complaints and the fact that they have to double up on routes to make sure students get picked up and to school on time.
On Monday evening, Guilford County Schools Chief of Staff Nora Carr sent FOX8 the following statement:
“We are aware of the possibility that some school bus drivers could stay home from work early next week. We agree that their pay is too low, as is the pay of all of our support staff. However, to potentially strand thousands of students at home or in the cold at bus stops would be a major breach of trust.”
146 bus drivers requested Monday and/or Tuesday of next week off, according to Angie Henry, the CFO with Guilford County Schools.
GCS denied requests.
Two bus drivers FOX8 spoke with said they are still not going to come to work.
“We are denied but we’re not delayed,” said Wanda Baker, a school bus driver. “We are still going to proceed on and do whatever needs to be done. It’s just the fact that we won’t get paid, but it is well worth standing for what you believe in and our belief is that we need a raise. We want them to take in consideration all that we do.”
The drivers say they want a $15 starting salary and a roughly $2 raise for existing employees.
“We are really not asking for a lot,” said Cherie Jeffers. “We have families and I myself I work three jobs."
Right now, GCS is coming up with a plan for next week. School will go on.
School district leaders will begin notifying parents about possible changes in the next few days.
They are contacting substitute drivers to see if they can fill in.
GCS will also map out locations where they expect to have the most problems and could call on parents to step up and take their kids to school.
Right now, it is not known if students who fail to show up during the walkout will get an excused absence.
Administrators will also meet with bus drivers this week to remind them about the bonuses the school system is giving them and make a plea for them to come to work next week.
“We don’t disagree the bus driver pay needs to increase but there is an appropriate way for that message to come across,” said Angie Henry, the CFO at GCS.
Henry says coming up with money for raises is not something they can control but they are pushing for them too.
“We consistently asked and advocated at the state level that the state create a salary scale for bus drivers that’s reasonable and we’ve done the same thing at the county commissioners level,” Henry said.
Teamsters Local 391 released the following statement:
"Teamsters Local 391 did not organize the leave requests for next week by Guilford County Schools' Bus Drivers nor was the Local Union involved with the planning.
"However, we do understand the frustration of Bus Drivers in Guilford County Schools, as well as across the state. The Bus Driver shortage has placed a tremendous amount of stress on all School Bus Drivers.
"The pay for hourly Non-Certified School Support Personnel does not provide a living wage nor has it kept up with inflation. Our Local Union remains committed to supporting our members with finding a constructive resolution. It is time for State Legislators and County Commissioners to take care of its employees, including bus drivers, safety assistants, custodians, cafeteria workers, and other non-certified school support personnel."