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What you need to know for 03/30/2017

School bus drivers form union, say conditions unsafe in Albany


School bus drivers form union, say conditions unsafe in Albany

A newly formed union of Albany school bus drivers is accusing the busing company that serves the Alb
School bus drivers form union, say conditions unsafe in Albany
Buses parked at the fine arts wing at Schenectady High School in this file photo.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

A newly formed union of Albany school bus drivers is accusing the busing company that serves the Albany and Schenectady school districts of creating “unsafe conditions” in Albany.

However, spokespeople for the Albany City School District and its busing company, Durham School Services, last week said the bus drivers had not communicated those safety concerns to them.

The new union — which formed after an affirmative vote last month — consists of more than 200 bus drivers and monitors working in the Albany City School District and is represented by the Civil Service Employees Association.

Union organizers charge that Durham School Services, their employer, made “unwarranted terminations” that created staffing shortages and added unfamiliar routes to the remaining drivers.

The organizers also argue that the busing company has failed to fix or replace cameras on the school buses, not only creating an unsafe environment for drivers and students but also making it more difficult to review an incident that occurs on a bus.

“We finally got so concerned that we decided to form a union so we could be fairly represented against our employer,” Stephanie Dawson, an Albany school bus driver and member of the new union’s organizing committee, said Thursday.

Durham officials, based in Chicago, said in a written statement Friday that they “take pride in the safety measures that are in place as our mission is getting students to school safely, on time and ready to learn.”

In the statement provided by company spokeswoman Molly Hart, the company added: “We encourage our employees to raise these issues to us so that we can address any issues immediately.” The company also said it was waiting on a formal request to begin negotiations with the union.

Schenectady City School District spokeswoman Karen Corona on Friday said the district was not aware of what was going on in Albany and didn’t want to comment on the situation. She said the district tracks statistics about bus arrivals and departures to monitor the services provided by Durham and its other busing contractor.

Durham operates more than 30 routes to Schenectady schools, including a majority of the bus routes to the high school.

Albany schools spokesman Ron Lesko said Thursday that the district’s transportation director and superintendent were not aware of the concerns spelled out by the union organizers, but added that the district would want to know about them if they were indeed true.

“We investigate all concerns and questions about student safety on buses Durham operates in our school district in a timely manner,” Lesko said in a written statement Friday. “In our experience, the Durham buses operating in our school district have been in good working order, including the video cameras.”

Amy Burns, another Albany bus driver and member of the union organizing committee, said Friday the union was just beginning to communicate its concerns to the district and trying to make the public more aware of what it considers safety issues in the Albany district’s transportation operation.

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