First Student bus drivers ask for year round pay - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

First Student bus drivers ask for year round pay

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Could you live through the summer without getting paid? That could be the case for First Student Bus drivers in Savannah-Chatham County School System.

Until this year, bus drivers were paid during the school year and collected unemployment during the summer, but Georgia lawmakers voted to change the law for all contracted school employees, making them uneligible to collect unemployment.

Many of the drivers are in the dark because the school year is about to start but they won't know until the end of the month whether they'll be getting paid through next summer.

"We can only keep our fingers crossed and hope that negotiations are successful," said bus driver James Simpkins.

Simpkins, like many other bus drivers, is returning to work on good faith. Starting next year, they can no longer collect unemployment during the summer, so they' re asking First Student to pay them year-round.

SCCPSS just renewed their contact with First Student for nearly $17 million. First Student then contracts with the drivers about how much money they will pay their employees

"This puts a burden on them because if we don't work, they lose their contract. If we don't work, the kids don't get to school." 

There are nearly 500 bus drivers at First Student and according to Simpkins, they've had to hire new drivers this year because some weren't willing to come back on the hope of getting paid year round.

"They feel that we're not going to get anything so they didn't think it was worthwhile for them to come back to this job," said Simpkins.

We don't know exactly how many drivers they lost but according to the school system, they expect First Student Bus Company to pay their drivers enough to attract and retain sufficient numbers of qualified and suitable drivers to avoid service interruptions.

But if First Student decides not to pay their drivers through the summer, Simpkins says he'll have to quit and find a new job altogether.

"A lot of drivers will have to go out and get other jobs to make it over the summer. As you know, jobs are hard to come by. People are not going to hire people to work for them for two or three months knowing that they're not going to come back," said Simpkins.

Parents, don't panic, this will not be affecting bus schedules right now.

The drivers and First Student are expected to finalize their negotiations on the 25th and 26th of this month. Of course we'll keep you posted and let you know what happens.

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