NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — Dozens of bus drivers called in sick Thursday, March 3 afternoon before picking up students from Jefferson Parish Schools.
They join the ranks of area bus drivers to demand a pay rise as their operating costs soar.
“It shouldn’t be last minute, there should be some type of back-up plan in place and there never is, you know, and that’s extremely infuriating, especially when I don’t know where is my child”, Parent, Vedella Walton mentioned.
Walton was in a panic. She got the call from West Jeff High School 30 minutes before school ended that her daughter didn’t have a bus driver and needed to be picked up.
She sent an Uber, but her daughter wasn’t in school.
She says she is frustrated with the lack of communication because no one told her her daughter was put on another bus home.
“If my child is brought to school by a school bus, I shouldn’t be scrambling to find a way to get him home at the last minute, but I can understand the situation and sympathize with him. [the drivers]but it’s my children’s safety that we’re talking about,” Walton said.
64 routes were impacted by the day’s work stoppage. Jefferson Parish Schools says the reason has not been officially communicated to them.
“We have to do something,” said owner/operator Everett Armand. “You won’t listen to us. The council does not listen. Everyone wants to say okay, what’s going on? You all know what’s going on.
Armand, an owner-operator for nearly 22 years, says his salary hasn’t increased, but his costs have
“We’re professionals who have a CDL driver’s license and we get paid, like, we can go to McDonald’s and make more money than they pay us and that’s ridiculous,” Armand said.
When Armand started in 1993, a tire cost him $125, now it’s almost $500.
Drivers told me that they often have to take out loans to do major repairs and have to pay $60 a day for a rental bus.
“I was away for three weeks which cost me $60 each day I was out for a rental bus while my bus was being fixed and $3,700 to fix my bus then the following year , my high pressure oil pump went out. another $3,500+ rental fee,” said owner/operator Laura Patrick.
They also say their fuel allowances are going down and they only get one gallon of diesel to cover one route.
“We were bullied at work, we were made to cover routes and we are not being compensated for it,” Armand said. “They don’t pay us for the wear and tear on our buses. We’re getting to the point where we can’t keep them on the road anymore.
The state’s share of operational pay has not been increased by the legislature since the 1980s, but Sen. Patrick McMath has drafted new legislation that could increase it as soon as the next school year.
Right now, these Jefferson Parish drivers want a $10,000 raise as well as $60 for every day they have to travel.
Without it, Armand says they are losing the battle.
“Our bus is eating up all the money and it’s getting hard to pay the bills and everything,” Armand said. “They have to pay us a salary where we can afford to live and right now we’re not living.”
Jefferson Parish Schools sent us this statement which was sent to families:
Families of JP schools,
We wanted to inform you of a potential disruption to bus transportation. We received information today about a possible sick bus driver this afternoon and tomorrow. At this stage, we have not received any official advice from any representative of the bus drivers as to the reasons for this threat of professional action.
We notify families of bus service interruptions as soon as we learn that a route will not be served. If a bus driver notifies us that they will not be driving on their assigned route, the District will notify families via an automated call to drop off and/or pick up their child(ren). In the event that a bus driver does not notify the district that they do not intend to cover their assigned route, schools will notify families as soon as possible so families can make arrangements for drop-off and/or or pick up their child(ren). If your bus route is not covered and you cannot drop off your child(ren), your child(ren)’s absence will be excused.
Safe and reliable transportation is one of the primary operational functions of a public school system. More than 30,000 families rely on us for transportation every day. Anything less than a full fleet on the road is unacceptable to us. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our families, and we appreciate your flexibility and understanding.
Jefferson Parish Schools
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