First Student employees including bus drivers, monitors and technicians serving schools in Chatham County, Georgia, have ratified a contract that will now provide pay during the summer months. The contract covers approximately 500 employees at three different company locations in the Savannah area.
The employees ratified the contract with a landslide vote of 117 in favor and four against.
Before this contract, the First Student employees qualified for unemployment insurance during the summer months. However, the state General Assembly passed House Bill 714 last April, which made certain employees ineligible for unemployment benefits during the summer.
“We worked hard to address our members’ concerns regarding summer pay in light of the loss of unemployment,” said Randy Brown, President of Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta, which negotiated the contract.
The new contract will also provide pay for these employees during spring and winter breaks starting next year. Other outcomes of the contract include increased wages and a 401(k )match, among others.
“The summer pay is a very important issue for us, especially since we lost our unemployment benefits,” said bus driver Leslie Jenkins. “This contract will help us take care of our families during the summer and holidays, without having to worry.”
Summer pay for bus drivers has been also been an important topic in Kansas. Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau recently introduced a bill that would make private school bus drivers eligible for unemployment benefits during the summer as long as they do not leave work voluntarily and without good cause. Instead of paying into state unemployment, the part-time school bus drivers would contribute to a monthly account to fund an eight- to nine-week period coinciding with the summer recess.
Sen.Faust-Goudeau told STN a hearing was held on Feb. 8 but the legislature has yet to take action on the bill.