IPS and AFSCME leaders discuss ways to move forward following bus driver call-offs

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – On Monday, all Indianapolis Public School bus routes ran as scheduled even though 32 drivers called out.

It’s the debate that’s affecting how thousands of children get to and from school.

IPS transportation employees are not happy and they are making it known.

“Let’s bring it to the table and let’s talk about it,” said David Robertson, the executive director of AFSCME Council 962, the union representing the IPS transportation employees.

Robertson is hoping to help. He’s been talking with IPS leaders about getting drivers back to work.

“Conversations are continuing with both local leadership and the IPS leadership and resolving this issue and making sure that things are back on track,” he added.

Nearly 100 drivers called-off on Friday to protest the district’s decision to switch transportation companies this summer. Of the 32,000 IPS students, only 14,000 were able to attend school on Friday because of this.

“It negatively impacted our students. We’ll continue to have conversations with them today. They also were helpful in making calls yesterday as well to drivers to reaffirm that message, please come in to work and there are other ways to navigate any disagreements that may exist,” said Superintendent Aleesia Johnson.

The district claims the move will save up to $7 million a year. It also plans to recruit current, successful bus drivers. 

IPS Community Coalition President Jim Scheurich doesn’t agree with how the district is handling negotiations with the union.

“I just think they’re doing thing, after thing, after thing that doesn’t really take account of what the community wants,” said Scheurich.

He believes something has to be done.

“They hid that they were having contracts to change companies on the other portion of the union, they’re not going to let them take their overtime pay,” he added.

Over the weekend, IPS created a contingency plan. Johnson says it’s one the district plans to use again this week, if drivers keep calling off. 

“We were able to contract with a different transportation carrier whose covering some routes for us as well as some of our drivers who are at work today,” said Johnson, “We basically call it doubling – so that’s picking up their normal route and an additional route.”

Despite all the frustrations, everyone agrees these are conversations they need to have.

“Let’s look at all of the facts and let’s move forward,” said Robertson.

Scheurich added, “Let’s sit down with the folks and talk and make sure the result is fair to these people. Some of them have worked for IPS for 35 years.”

“There are ways that we can have those conversations without putting those students and families in the middle,” stated Johnson.

As of now, it appears bus routes will run as scheduled for Tuesday morning. If anything changes we’ll be sure to update you on-air and online.

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