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Los Angeles

Vote by Striking Drivers Delayed

April 21, 2002|ERIKA HAYASAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A vote by striking school bus drivers on whether they will accept or reject the latest contract offer may not happen until Monday, a union spokesman said Saturday.

Bus drivers are still looking for a place to meet for the vote, and it doesn't appear that they will find one this weekend, Don Owens said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has offered Hamilton High School auditorium as a place for the Teamsters Union Local 572 vote, a district representative said.

The union is urging drivers to reject the latest offer by the school district's transportation contractor, Laidlaw Education Services, because leaders believe it does not offer an adequate health-benefits package. As proposed, the health-care package would become effective after a year of employment. Drivers want coverage offered sooner and at a lower price.

Also, the Laidlaw drivers, who earn $8 to $15 an hour, want to be paid the same as those employed directly by the district, who make $13 to $24 an hour. Drivers rejected an offer last week that proposed an average annual raise of 6.3% over three years because it didn't offer sufficient benefits. Only two of the 415 voting members favored it.

Nearly 800 contract drivers have been on strike since April 2, causing problems for nearly 20,000 Los Angeles Unified students. The district has relied on in-house transportation supervisors and dispatchers to drive district-owned buses on routes usually served by Laidlaw.

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