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Westport school bus drivers won't strike

Connecticut Post
Updated 12:44 am, Monday, October 1, 2012
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WESTPORT -- Parents will not have to make arrangements Monday to bring their children to the town's public schools after the district's bus drivers closely averted a move to strike Sunday morning.

At the request of the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service, DATTCO and UFCW Local 371 agreed Sunday night to a "cooling off" period. UFCW Local 371 directed its members to report to work as usual Monday.

In an email to parents earlier Sunday, school officials had said that Dattco drivers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, had rejected a proposed settlement with management and would walk off the job Monday morning.

The town's school system began warning parents of the possibility that there would be no buses late Thursday.

"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 issued before the drivers voted to strike.

Gibson said a federal mediator was 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.

In an email to parents of Westport students, Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon informed parents last week that "there will not be bus service to transport your children to and from school beginning Monday morning" if a new contract agreement was not reached between the school system's transportation provider, Dattco, and its drivers by 12:01 a.m. Monday.

"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 in the email last week.

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

He said extra police would have been assigned to direct traffic at the schools.