Union responds to comments by Durham spokesman

Durham spokesman issues statement
John Elliott addresses media members.
John Elliott addresses media members.

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Teamsters Local 509, the union representing many of the bus drivers employed by Durham School Services, have issued a statement following a news conference held by a company spokesman on Wednesday.

The statement reads:

Durham School Services initially told us they did not want to negotiate this contract through the media. We have honored their request despite the fact that they have not done the same. We are not on strike. We have been in bargaining this week. We will be in bargaining again tomorrow. We still hope to reach an agreement with the company that improves safety and provides the drivers and monitors with dignity and respect. We will keep everyone posted after bargaining concludes.

Earlier Wednesday John Elliott, a spokesman for the company,provided an update on the current state of negotiations.

Elliott said 15 negotiation sessions had been held with Teamsters, dating back to last July, though compensation demands only came 45 days ago. Sessions are continuing through this Thursday and will resume next week as well.

Elliot said Durham is willing to offer drivers for the Charleston County School District a .45-cent wage increase per hour, which is a 3% raise. Elliott said Teamsters, who originally requested an 8% raise for drivers, are now asking for an extra $1 wage-per-hour increase for its drivers.

"We think .45 cents is a reasonable offer," Elliott said. He also pointed out these negotiations only apply to Charleston County School District drivers.

Elliott apologized to students' parents for the uncertainty, and said while Durham was working intently with the school board on a contingency plan in case a strike happens, it was a certainty all routes would not be covered.

Elliott stressed that if a strike were to occur, it was because of the union.

He also said the company was making an offer to Beaufort County drivers "comparable" to those in Charleston County.  Negotiations in Beaufort County are set to resume Thursday.

The situation in Dorchester District 2 is not as far along, as Elliott said Durham just received financial demands from the union for those drivers.

Elliott said Durham, which has never been in this situation before, believes an agreement in all districts was important.

Meanwhile, the Charleston County School District issued another statement Wednesday afternoon announcing they have not been notified of an impending strike.

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