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Meriden school bus driver strike comes to an end

While bus drivers were on the picket line, student transportation was compromised in Meriden for two days.

MERIDEN, Conn. — The union representing school bus drivers in Meriden has come to a temporary agreement with New Britain Transportation after two school days' worth of strikes.

"After the vote was finalized you could feel the elation, we’re going back to work. And man is it inspiring," said Nick Frangiamore, the Field Representative for Teamsters Union Local 671.

The City of Meriden sent out an online statement in response to the update saying, "While MPS was not a party to the dispute, they worked closely with New Britain Transportation and Teamsters Local 671 to help resolve the strike."

Meriden public school buses will be back on the roads on Wednesday. However, the district is asking the public for some grace, as they get back into the swing of things. 

Tuesday afternoon, union members voted in favor of putting an end to the strike. The agreement, in short, says the bus drivers will be getting a 6% raise and will be terminating their contract with NBT in the near future. 

"It’s enough to get us back working while the rest of it gets negotiated further down the road," Frangiamore said. “There’s enough protection today that we’re comfortable going to work. And the drivers are relieved to go do what they do. They love picking up the kids."

From here, Frangiamore said the bus drivers will technically still be employed by NBT until the district can find a new busing company to work with. When that happens, a new contract will be negotiated with the union. The city believes that the process will take about six weeks, and they already have two companies that have expressed interest in partnering up. 

"Teamsters had their role and that’s to represent the drivers, advocate for their needs. NBT had to advocate for their company's needs. And at the same time I needed both sides to say hey there’s students here who need a ride to school," said Dr. Mark Benigni, superintendent of Meriden Public Schools.

During the strike, the school bus drivers demanded fair wages. Before the new contract agreement, drivers said they made at least $4 per hour less than competing companies. The group also asked for safer working conditions and for the company to provide health insurance, 401k contributions, and paid holidays.

However, NBT has insisted that they did provide health insurance to the drivers, just not the plan the members were hoping for. 

In response to the new temporary agreement, NBT President, Peter Agostini, said, "NBT is happy an agreement has been reached and we can drive Meriden children to school tomorrow."

While bus drivers were on the picket line, student transportation was compromised.

Meriden Public Schools opened its campuses for longer in the day to accommodate for early drop-off and late pick-up on Friday and Tuesday.

Friday was "a busy morning for schools" as parents teamed up with neighbors and friends to drive students to school, Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said Friday.

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Classrooms saw an 89% attendance rate on Friday, consistent with what was seen during the first week of school, according to the mayor. On Tuesday, attendance went up to 91%.

"From our parents to our teachers who came into our buildings early and stayed late to ensure that they could get our kids to and from school it was really a community effort and I can’t thank them enough," Scarpati said.

M&J, another school bus company, has drivers on strike for similar reasons, affecting student transportation in Coventry. Tuesday was the first day M&J union drivers went on strike.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at mmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookX and Instagram.


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