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Plum School Officials Reject Fact-Finder's Bus Contract Recommendation

The school district and the transportation union must continue negotiations for a new contract.

Bus drivers in the Plum Borough School District will continue to work under the terms of an expired contract.

During a special meeting on Monday, the school board voted 5-2 to reject a fact finding report in regard to the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1595 contract, which expired July 31, 2012. Board members Loretta White and Tom McGough dissented. Shane McMasters and John St. Leger were absent.

The union represents a unit of 53 bus drivers, three mechanics and nine aides who work for the district.

Because both entities were unable to come up with an agreement via negotiations, Pennsylvania Labor Relation Board fact-finder Michelle Miller-Kotula was appointed as a third party to review the situation and make a recommendation.

A fact-finding hearing was held on Dec. 14, 2012, in the district administrative offices.

According to the report, the district proposed a flat reduction of $5 per hour of combined wages and payroll taxes for a three-year term, stating that the district would save money from outsourcing transportation services rather than keeping them in-house.

The district also proposed that a third party provider of transportation services would pay any former district employee guaranteed minimum hourly wages as well as unemployment compensation benefits, amounting to the same yearly wages employees currently receive.

The union, however, proposed that employees receive a 3.5 percent hourly wage increase for the three years of the contract.

Drivers currently are paid $21.14 per hour, mechanics are paid $23.45 per hour and aides are paid $13.06 per hour.

According to the report, the district's proposal "is not reasonable because it rolls back the level of wages to amounts received approximately 10 years ago." Union members also have publicly said that outsourcing the services would not be a good move for the district.

Miller-Kotula reccommended that the union employees receive a wage freeze, similar to other district employees.

Because the school board rejected the report, district solicitor Lee Price said the union and administration could go back to negotiating or go to non-binding arbitration.

School board member Sal Collela, the personnel committee chairman, said the disagreements go back to the wages.

"I don't feel [the report' encompasses the complete impact on the district," he said. "There are some things the school board needs to ascertain."

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