By Matt Tomsic
Published Jan. 22, 2013
Charleston County School District is asking the state to allow nonunion bus drivers from outside South Carolina to replace local drivers if contract negotiations between the union and Durham School Services falter and lead to a strike.
The district will present its plan to the State Board of Education, which has called a meeting for Wednesday to discuss the emergency regulation for bus driver certification.
The meeting is the latest in a labor contract dispute between Charleston County school bus drivers and Durham School Services, a private company that manages busing for the school district. The labor contract expired in August, and Charleston County bus drivers voted to authorize a strike in mid-January. Sticking points include pay, health insurance and working conditions, and contract talks resumed this week.
“Due to the timing and uncertainty of the strike, there will not be enough time to certify an adequate number of new bus drivers,” according to documentation submitted by the Charleston County School District to the State Board of Education. “There is a potential of an immediate need of over 250 drivers. This emergency regulation will allow licensed school bus drivers from other states to drive school buses in South Carolina during the crisis.”
The regulation would also temporarily bypass the requirements of 20 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of driving instruction, among others. It will only be valid for 90 days. The school district is asking that the regulation require drivers to be licensed in another state with the appropriate endorsements, present a driving record from his or her resident state, present a background check and have a minimum of five years’ driving experience with at least two years’ experience as a school bus driver, among other requirements.
In a letter to the State Board of Education, the school district’s Student Transportation Director Curt Norman said Durham School Services has agreed to bring between 24 and 30 nonunion drivers from other states in the Southeast to temporarily replace the Charleston County drivers if they strike. Norman said the school district expects a contract resolution or strike by Jan. 28.
“The union and Durham are far apart and (Charleston County School District) is making contingency plans for a strike,” Norman wrote.
Contact Matt Tomsic at 843-849-3144.