APS bus drivers have new contract

ALPENA – Alpena Public Schools Board of Education ratified a two-year agreement with its school bus drivers at a special board meeting on Tuesday. The bus drivers ratified the agreement earlier in the day. The vote came after a tentative agreement was reached with the help of a state mediator last week.

The agreement calls for the reduction of hourly rates of 10.24 percent in the first year, and will revert to a 10 percent reduction for the second year. Drivers had been working without a contract since their prior contract expired on Aug. 31, and the additional decrease adjusts for the days worked under the terms of the expired agreement at the higher, old rates. The contract agreement also includes a few changes in insurance coverage, most notably increases in prescription drug co-pays.

“We are happy to have an agreement with the bus drivers,” Assistant Superintendent Diane Block said. “We know it is not easy to take any cut in pay, not less a cut this significant. We are extremely grateful the drivers have joined the other employee groups who have made these concessions in helping us achieve financial stability.”

All the district employees covered by insurance already contribute 20 percent toward the cost of premiums, and all employees must make contributions of 7-10 percent toward their retirement plan.

“Out-of-pocket costs have significantly increased for our employees in the past several years but significant funding cuts on top of revenues lost to declining enrollment have backed us into a corner where we have no choice but to seek direct wage concession as well,” Block said.

These concessions are in line with the deficit elimination plan the district filed with the Michigan Department of Education in July. The key piece to that plan was a 10 percent wage concession from all employees. Currently all school administrators, administrative support, grant, at-will, secretarial, custodial, cafeteria and maintenance workers have taken the 10 percent cuts that were effective July 1, along with the same insurance changes.

“We are happy to be able to reach a mutual resolution on the contract,” Steve Gonyea, president of the bus drivers association said.

The only contract left to settle is the teachers. A tentative agreement reached with the help of a mediator was rejected by the teachers in late August, and teachers are presently working without a contract with discussions ongoing.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.