Atlanta Public School bus drivers rallied at the Metropolitan Bus Yard on Wednesday morning to protest several issues they feel have been mismanaged the past several months.
Bus drivers debated “common sense” solutions to issues with safety, payroll mismanagement and work conditions during successive Board of Education meetings this month and last month, according to a release from their union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. But after being ignored, union officials said drivers visited the home of Superintendent Erroll B. Davis in Buckhead on Sunday.
Union officials then filed “a missing person’s report” due to Mr. Davis avoiding conversations with the workers. Davis was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
“This problem has been going on since July,” said Quentin Hutchins, a bus driver for Atlanta Public Schools for 16 years. “The trickery and deceit the Atlanta Public Schools is doing toward the bus drivers and transportation department is not necessary and just downright despicable. All we’re asking for is the right pay. They called us back off of vacation early and no one seems to know what’s going on back at the central office. It’s just dysfunctional downtown.”
“We’re going to keep doing this,” Hutchins said. “We want to bring attention to the public and we want the public to know we’re not going to abandon their children, but we’re going to get the word out. This problem is still ongoing and no one is willing to work with the drivers at the central office. They always cancel meetings, they cancel mediation, they’re going to do whatever they want with taxpayer money and it’s time to get it together and get it right.”
Oct. 16 was set as a voluntary mediation date for a five-day pay dispute the drivers had prior to the start of the school year, but APS management disregarded this agreement, union officials said.
“Atlanta Public Schools administration has responded to the bus drivers to find a resolution to their concerns,” said APS spokewoman Kimberly Green in a statement Wednesday. “A mediation was scheduled this morning, but representatives of the bus drivers cancelled the meeting informing APS administrators that, ‘the mediation scheduled for Wednesday has been taken off the calendar.’ This remains an issue between labor and management.”
Bertha Scott, a bus driver since 1986 who currently drives for Drew Charter School, said drivers are behind on their bills because of the issues and some have lost their homes.
“I’ve been real active in this system since 1987 for bus driver rights,” Scott said. “Basically, right now (the issue is) pay and a lot of things going on in the department that is not right. You can go on and on with it.”
Green said the APS bus driver’s pay is comparable to other systems and that the district has not provided cost of living increases to employees since 2009.
“However, the district is optimistic about the budget forecast and will revisit in preparation for the fiscal year 2014 budget,” Green said.
Enjoy expanded coverage of college football for UGa, Tech and the SEC, with our SEC Insider, covering all Southeastern Conference matchups and articles by AJC staff and regional newspapers that cover the SEC.