School Bus Drivers Rally For Year-Round Pay - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

School Bus Drivers Rally For Year-Round Pay

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Savannah - Summer Break is a nice vacation for students, but for school bus drivers it can mean three months without pay.  And to make matters worse, they're about to lose Unemployment Benefits state-wide. 

Now bus drivers with the company First Student are drawing a line in the sand and planning a rally for Saturday to demand change.  They're demanding pay for the full year, including the summer.  That includes monitors and mechanics too.  They want this issue to be addressed before First Student and Chatham County Schools re-negotiate their contracts which expire at the end of August. 

"We just want someone to step up to the plate and say hey, these are our drivers, they are important to us because of the children, so we are going to look out for them," said school bus driver Edith Dunlap.  

Dunlap has been driving school buses for the company First Student for eight years.  She applies for Unemployment Benefits every summer break.  But Georgia's Labor Department is canceling those benefits across the state at the start of 2015. 

"We feel like without Unemployment, we are out 20% of our income.  It's going to be taken away this summer,” Dunlap said.  “What are we going to do?" 

"The thing is if they want these folks to come back and work for the county they need to be paying them over the summer if they're going to be eliminating their Unemployment Benefits,” said Eric Robertson with Teamsters Local 728, the union representing these bus drivers.  

Together they are working to put year-round contracts on the top of the priorities list when First Student re-negotiates their bus driver's contracts at the end of August.  The Georgia Labor Department is making the cuts, wanting everyone in education to be treated the same, even though these people work for private companies that contract with school systems.  Butler says companies that don't offer year-round contracts are “gaming” the system. 

“They've been able to do it cheaper. They refuse to pay these individuals over the breaks and instead encourage or tell the individuals that they need to go apply for Unemployment during those summer breaks," Butler said.   

"We just want to know that in the summer time we can continue to take care of our families.  And enjoy coming back to work for Chatham County School Board and First Student," said Dunlap.   

That rally will be Saturday from 11:30 am until noon at the IBEW Building at 1526 Dean Forest Road here in Savannah. 
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