Cumberland County parents told to prepare ahead of potential bus driver strike

Andrea Blanford Image
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Cumberland County school bus drivers on brink of protest
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Cumberland County parents have been warned for several days that their children may not have a ride to and from school as bus drivers plan to protest.

FAYETTEVILLE. N.C. (WTVD) -- Parents in Cumberland County have been warned for several days that their children may not have a ride to and from school on Tuesday as bus drivers plan to protest for better pay and working conditions.

By Monday evening, district staff still didn't have any indication of just how many bus routes would be affected by morning.

"If it's possible, I would set up backup transportation," said Kristi Harden, Executive Director of Transportation. "I would. Unfortunately at this time, we just don't know what it will look like."

Harden stated as soon as her team heard of the potential strike, she called a meeting with more than a hundred drivers.

Among their concerns, Harden said, were discipline issues, pandemic safety, and compensation.

Cumberland County bus drivers make $12.21 an hour. There are 46 driver vacancies for the 436 buses serving roughly17,000 of the district's 47,000 students who rely on bus transportation.

"Like everywhere else in the nation, there's a CDL shortage so drivers are having to do more, the days are longer," said Harden.

At the beginning of November, all CCS staff received a one-time $1,000 bonus from the district's stimulus funds.

But when it comes to pay raises for drivers, district staff said the budget has already been set.

"If we're considering increasing the pay of our bus drivers only at this time and at this point, that's not currently on the table," said Lindsay Whitley, CCS Spokesperson.

Similar protests recently led to long carpool lines at Wake County schools as drivers there participated in a 'sick out' on Nov. 1, 440 of the district's 600 buses were running.

At the Wake County School Board meeting that week, the board approved a one-time $1,250 bonus as well as a 1% increase in pay for all permanent employees.

CCS staff said they will notify parents as quickly as possible Tuesday if their child's bus route is affected.