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Boston school bus drivers back at work after surprise strike

Stephon Johnson | 10/17/2013, 1:48 p.m.

Boston school bus drivers are back on the job after the company contracted to run school bus services agreed to a meeting with union workers.

Veolia Transportation Inc. agreed to sit down with members of Local 8751 after shocking the city of Boston and going on a surprise strike. The strike was the first for the bus drivers’ union in Boston in 22 years.

And the drivers have several grievances. The union presented a 16-point list of union demands to Veolia, including halting the company’s use of a GPS device that allows parents to monitor bus location through a smartphone app and a software program that helps route buses and is also used by the company to determine evaluations and pay.

Initially, after the surprise strike, Boston school officials autocalled parents of students who relied on buses (30,000) to notify them and let them know if they were on the road. The autocalls were dropped after a couple of days when buses returned, but some contingency plans remained. Schools opened an hour early to accommodate the work schedules of parents. Schools have also encouraged parents to have backup plans for transportation while they engage in talks with the union.

Drivers have continually attempted to halt service and block the exit path of certain bus yards, including the Readville bus yard in Hyde Park, Mass. But their attempts have failed.

“We’re still concerned about a similar action at any time, and we’re keeping our contingency plans in place,” said a Boston Public Schools spokesman to the Associated Press. 

Last Wednesday, two officials of the administration of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino identified union official Steve Kirschbaum and the union’s vice president, Steve Gillis, as the instigators of last week’s strike. The administration also accused the duo of intimidating and bullying other drivers into going along with the strike, even though Local 8751 President Frantz Mendes and other representatives from its parent organization pleaded with drivers to get back on the job.

Under the union’s contract, strikes, stoppages and slowdowns are forbidden and can result in participating individuals getting fired.