YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Los Angeles

School Bus Drivers Could End Strike With Contract Vote

Labor: Workers for an L.A. district contractor will cast ballots today in the 26-day-old walkout.


Bus drivers who went on strike for better pay and medical benefits will vote today on a contract that increases their salary, but does not resolve their health-care issues.

If the 842 drivers, who have been on strike for 26 days, approve the contract with Laidlaw Educational Services, about 20,000 Los Angeles Unified School District children could be back in their yellow buses Monday morning.

Union officials will announce the vote results sometime today.

The contract calls for major health benefit issues to be settled later by an arbitrator.

Basically, the union wants a new insurance carrier that it believes will better serve its members and provide lower-cost premiums. Laidlaw does not want to change carriers.

As part of the contract, the union will take 25 different insurance claims filed by bus drivers and evaluate whether the carrier used by the Teamsters Union would be cheaper. The bus drivers union wants to use any savings to improve benefits. Laidlaw wants to control how the money is spent.

Laidlaw and the union also have not decided who will pay for dependent health-care benefits and whether the company will continue to pay a stipend for senior drivers.

Union officials would not disclose publicly the amount of the salary increase. Drivers will be allowed to retain a pension plan that Laidlaw had sought to eliminate and will still receive overtime pay.

Teamsters spokesman Don Owens said health-care benefits were so weak that as many as half of the drivers who work full time qualify for Medi-Cal benefits.

"Laidlaw has been de facto dependent on welfare for these folks' health care for years," Owens said.

A Laidlaw official said the strike could have ended weeks ago when the current terms were proposed.

"We've had the same package on the table for weeks," said Jim Ferraro, Laidlaw area vice president. "Aside from the arbitration, everything else is status quo."

Los Angeles Times Articles