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Talks continuing in bid to avert school bus strike Monday

Updated 8:26 am, Saturday, September 29, 2012
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With a strike by Westport school bus drivers looming Monday morning, the school district's transportation contractor reports it plans to negotiate through the weekend to avert a walkout.

"We have done our part to meet regularly with union officials to resolve contract issues, and we will continue to meet over the weekend to keep our drivers -- whom we highly respect-- behind the wheel," Cliff Gibson, the chief operating officer for the Dattco bus company, said in a statement.

The bus drivers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Gibson said a federal mediator has been brought in to try to help resolve the impasse, and that bus company officials have offered to temporarily extend the terms of the current contract to avoid an interruption of service.

"We are open to alternatives that will keep our dedicated employees working, and will provide uninterrupted transportation services to the students and families," he said in the statement.

The threat of a school bus driver strike was reported to parents of Westport students in an email late Thursday by Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon: "There will not be bus service to transport your children to and from school beginning Monday morning," if a new contract agreement is not reached between the school system's transportation provider, Dattco, and its drivers by 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Regardless of whether there is a bus driver strike, schools will open on the usual schedule Monday, Landon said.

"I urge you to make every effort to have your children arrive at school approximately 30 minutes prior to their normal school start times," Landon said.

The superintendent suggested car pools be organized as a transit option.

If there is a strike, police will deploy extra officers to the schools to direct the anticipated heavier traffic.

Landon said if the drivers do not report to work, automated phone calls will be placed to school families confirming the walkout and the need to provide students with alternate means of transportation to and from their schools.

If a strike is averted, a recorded message will be posted on the school district's "snow" telephone line -- 203-341-1766 -- and another email will be sent to school households.