Indianapolis Public Schools signed a pact Monday with the union representing district bus drivers and attendants. It aims to end transportation disruptions by offering bonuses if employees keep working through the end of the contract in June.
Last month, the district was forced to cancel bus service for an estimated 22,000 students after more than 70 bus drivers abruptly called in sick. The drivers, without union leadership support, organized an apparent protest to the district’s decision to outsource transportation to a new company this summer.
IPS Board of Commissioners voted unanimously at a work session to approve a memorandum of understanding with the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and AFL-CIO Local 661.
IPS announced in January it would not renew a contract with bus vendor Durham School Services, that expires June 30, in a cost-cutting move. Durham covers about two-thirds of the district's routes, and IPS covers the rest itself.
Starting this summer, the company First Student will provide all transportation for the district. The change in service is expected to save the district $7 million annually, according to district officials.
The agreement approved in the Tuesday work session is only for transportation staff employed by IPS and through the employment agreement with AFSCME.
“AFSCME realizes the difficulty of this transition for all affected,” Ron Richmond, AFSCME Director of Communications, says. “We appreciate the drivers and attendants who have dedicated many years of service to this community and thank them for their patience as we finalized this agreement.”
Michael O’Connor, IPS Board president, says he understands the change is difficult for all and especially for long-time employees. Yet, he says, district leaders told the public if they approved the $272 million propert-tax referendum in 2018, new ways to cut costs would be found.
“We have a commitment to the taxpayer,” he says. “We're going to look for ways to streamline. There are not easy answers or easy decisions. And so we will continue to do that, in this public of fashion as is possible. We need the participation of the public to make sure those decisions are they're aware of those decisions, and that they have input.”
The total value of the bonuses is worth more than $800K if all 150 employees eligible are able to satisfy every requirement and earn multiple bonuses from now until June 4, the end of the contract.
The agreement says IPS will pay out unused sick and vacation days at $35 per day to employees who do not transfer to another district job at the end of their contract.
Employees are also eligible to earn up to $4,050 if they meet a number of criteria, including:
- $1,000 if drivers are absent for less than 10 shifts, including extra-curricular activity runs
- $250 for employees absent no more than one day between Feb. 28 and March 3
- $100 for each year of an employee’s “good standing” up to a maximum of $1,500
- $100 for each workweek of perfect attendance
- $100 for perfect attendance during statewide standardized testing periods in March, April and May