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Friday, July 21 News

School bus strike averted, contract agreed upon

WESTPORT — Avoiding a potential work stoppage, Westport bus drivers agreed to a collective bargaining agreement late Wednesday night.

The contract between the town’s school bus drivers and their employer, Dattco, will run through Sept. 30, 2020, according to Thomas Wilkinson, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Union 371, the union that represents the school bus workers.

Wilkinson was encouraged by the result of long and hard-fought negotiations that yielded a bump in pay, among other gains. He described the outcome as “nothing but improvements including substantial wage increases” in a text message. All wage increases will be paid retroactively back to Oct. 2016 when their original contract expired, he added.

Wilkinson complimented the union negotiating committee which he said, “stood tall for their member co-workers through hard bargaining until the end.”

“Great members who deserve what they were able to achieve,” Wilkinson said of the wage increases which range from an extra $2.15-$3.75 added to the drivers’ hourly wages. The exact details of the contract were no available as of press time.

The threat of a bus strike was real enough to warrant cautionary emails from Superintendent Colleen Palmer detailing alternative plans for the school district in case bus workers decided to strike. On May 3, bus drivers voted to authorize their union to strike. Despite the authorization, there was never a disruption in school bus service to the town.

Palmer tweeted shortly after the contract was agreed upon: “Bus drivers settle labor contract with Dattco-strike avoided!” The tweet was capped with a school bus emoji.

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