Some say proposed salary increases for new contract are inequitable

Some Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District transportation workers believe compensation being proposed for a new contract is inequitable between longtime employees and new hires.

District officials are negotiating a new contract with School Service Employees SEIU Local 284. The existing contract started July 1, 2019, and is still in effect, said Human Resources Director Tom Pederstuen. The contract covers bus drivers, chaperones and crossing guard employees.

Four District 196 transportation employees addressed the School Board Jan. 10 about proposed compensation in the new contract.

Teresa Jakubowski, a school bus driver and SEIU Local 284 steward, said negotiations have stalled because “we need a more equitable distribution of monies among the 250 employees in this department.”

According to Jakubowski, while all drivers would get a raise under the proposed compensation, new drivers who have worked six years or fewer for the district would get a higher “bump” over the yearly raise than employees who have worked longer than six years. She said the same “inequitable” wage increase is happening with chaperones.

“We’re thankful for that large pay increase. We understand you responded to market rate wages and are thankful for that. But you only considered half of the staff thinking this would fix the staffing shortage,” she said. “But now morale is at an all time low and drivers and chaperones with longevity are being undervalued and they are angry and frustrated with this job. They too have an option of leaving and going to neighboring busing companies that will pay three to five dollars more than is currently being offered and presented to you.”

The district’s transportation is “broken” said bus driver Suzanne Sylvester. She added that office staff and mechanics have been driving morning and afternoon routes almost daily and this is unsustainable. She said existing workers believe it’s important to retain current employees through better pay. There should be equitable pay increases for all levels of service years.

“We are in very high demand all over this nation. Please help us all to feel valued,” she said. “Experience needs to be compensated equally as much as a new employee. We are not simply a warm body behind the wheel.”

The compensation being offered to senior employees is “found to be wanting,” said Catherine Briggs. She added the ability to hire new transportation employees should not come at the expense of current employees.

Briggs said she averages between 52 and 60 hours a week driving a bus.

“This will continue unless you the School Board realize that yes there is a need for new hires at a better wage,” she said. “But there is a much more specific need which is to retain and compensate the employees you have, those transportation professionals that have gone beyond and continue to do so for this district.”

Claudette Austin asked the district and School Board to recognize the value of what chaperones do, after giving a description of some of their day-to-day duties.

In a Jan. 11 email, Pederstuen declined to comment on the transportation employees’ remarks made at the meeting.

“We prefer to negotiate directly with SEIU who represents our bus drivers and chaperones,” he said.

Patty Dexter can be reached at patty.dexter@apgecm.com.

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