IN DEVELOPMENT … The story will be updated as new information can be verified. Updated 3 times
SANTA FE, NM – Unions and a school bus company blame each other for a strike by school bus drivers that shut down much of the public school transport serving 3,500 students in Las Cruces.
Drivers picketed the office of southern New Mexico district school bus contractor, STS New Mexico on Thursday, demanding better wages and working conditions, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.
Bus driver shortages have strained schools across the state, as education officials struggle to hire and train more workers. Some offer free training, signing bonuses, and other benefits for new hires.
The shortage has led the company to push mechanics into the driving department, which means there are no mechanics to fix buses when they break down, a representative of the drivers’ union said. bus to Sun-News.
“We’re just going to do our best,” STS chief executive Van Wamel told the newspaper.
District officials told parents via text Thursday to “please make alternative transportation arrangements if possible.”
A coalition of unions representing school workers said the bus company was responsible for its strike and suggested it would end on Friday.
âToday’s one-day unfair labor practices strike was preventable, but due to STS-NM’s continued failure to meet our demands for student safety, worker dignity and treatment fair to employees, the Las Cruces Transport Federation was unfortunately forced to make this decision. drastic action, âsaid local union president Dean Abrams.
Abrams said negotiations began in July.
The school also informed parents on Wednesday evening, spokeswoman Kelly Jameson said, adding that children who cannot make it to school will be offered online work and an excused absence.
The bus company blames the shutdown on the union, saying the group has raised wages over the past two years and a new demand for a wage increase “makes it difficult to reach a fair deal and reasonable “.
âWe truly regret the inconvenience caused by the union strike and are doing everything possible to continue providing services to our students,â said Joshua Weinstock, spokesperson for The Kincaid Group, which operates STS in Las Cruces.
Jameson said special education students whose transportation is specified in their individualized learning plans will not be affected by the strike.
Attanasio is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.