Monday, September 9, 2013

APS bus drivers cry foul over not getting paid for five days of training

Posted By on Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 6:15 PM

This past May, after working 190 days shuttling what he calls the city's "precious cargo" to and from school, Atlanta Public School bus driver Quentin Hutchins checked Twitter and Facebook.

There, he was notified by APS that all bus drivers had to end their summer vacations one week early in the fall and return to work. School system officials wanted bus drivers to acquaint themselves with bus route changes.

However, the drivers weren't going to be compensated for the additional week of work. Instead, they'd be given five days off during the school year when they'd normally have to report.

At tonight's APS board meeting, Hutchins and as many as 70 other APS bus drivers, monitors, and parents are expected to address the issue, in addition to expressing concerns about how bus drivers were notified about the schedule change and wage issues.

Hutchins, who has served as an APS bus driver for 16 years, will be one of eight drivers to address board members. Two parents are also expected to speak.

"What we are hoping to accomplish is to be part of the process to building a better APS," Hutchins said. "We want to be paid for the work we've done and help build a better education system."

When asked for comment, an APS spokeswoman noted that bus drivers and monitors, just like teachers, are 190-day employees. And their salaries are, just like teachers', prorated. She said the APS Board of Education in June approved a change to the calendar to make up for the five days of training by allowing bus drivers and monitors to not report to duty on five of the teachers' "professional learning days." By doing so, the calendar would reflect "full compensation for all 190-day employees."

Tonight's meeting will give drivers the chance to voice their opinions and be part of decisions they are normally left out of, said Helen Cox, the southern region communication specialist of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Cox said the main concern is a general lack of respect for the bus drivers. The payment issue, she said, is an example of this lack of respect.

Last month, 70 bus drivers protested outside of APS' Downtown headquarters about administration communication issues and low wages. Hutchins, who also participated in that protest, said APS administration have yet to take action.

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