Bus Strike To Begin Monday, Oct. 1

Bus+Strike+To+Begin+Monday%2C+Oct.+1

Ellie Gavin, Staff Writer

A bus drivers’ strike announced today means thousands of Westport students will be scrambling for rides to school tomorrow morning.

Westport school bus drivers rejected a contract agreed on by management and the drivers’ union leaders, Superintendent Elliott Landon informed parents and students today in an email.

Landon did not say whether negotiations continue; as a result, it is not clear for how long the strike will persist. He also did not divulge any details on the negotiations that occurred last week or what the drivers opposed.

An anonymous driver who plans to participate in the strike, should the bargaining parties fail to come to a settlement, explained some of the demands and complaints the drivers have made.

“We’re the bottom of the barrel,” the driver said about the Westport Dattco drivers’ status.

According to the driver, employees for the Westport branch of Dattco get paid far less than employees in neighboring towns. The driver said that Westport Dattco drivers get paid an average starting salary of about $16 an hour, versus around $23 to $26 an hour in towns like New Canaan.

Dattco has not commented since the strike was announced. In a press release dated Sept. 27, Dattco Chief Operating Officer Cliff Gibson said, ““Our highest priority is ensuring that Westport school children have safe and reliable transportation to and from school each and every day.”

The driver says that in addition to lower pay, they were offered fewer hours. Overall, he said the drivers are looking for fair wages, more hours, holiday pay, and the ability to do charter trips, such as driving for field trips or athletic games.

In an attempt to try to achieve these demands, the driver says they have arranged for a picket line outside the Dattco offices starting Monday morning.

“We want them to hear us loud and clear,” the driver said. “Show that you respect your employees, or everybody loses.”

Landon informed Inklings earlier this week that absences due to transportation issues will not be excused.

“I see no reason that anybody shouldn’t be able to get to school,” Landon said. “We will treat it like a normal school day.”

According to athletic director Marty Lisevick, athletic teams will still play away games as the school has already chartered buses.

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