The Robbinsdale School District plans to make changes to its transportation plan. Monday night the school board voted 5 to 2 in favor of privatizing its bus services beginning in July.
While details are still being worked out, First Student is the current front-runner to take over all of the bus routes starting this summer. According to the district, First Student, which has contracts with 21 other school districts, offered the lowest bid for the services.
The Robbinsdale School District says privatizing the fleet will save $1.4 million a year, but it means 118 bus drivers will be laid off.
The district believes First Student will hire some of the current drivers, but the men and women behind the wheel worry their wages will be cut and benefits will shrink.
One bus driver told the Star Tribune this change will “break my heart.”
To add to matters, the union representing the bus drivers has not been able to reach an agreement. Some union members thought this new plan was a tactic to force negotiations, but the district says its decision was solely based on its bottom line.
“Had the board not voted to approve the recommendation, the district would have seen deeper future cuts which would also result in the loss of jobs,” Superintendent Aldo Sicoli explained in a press release.
While school officials believe this move is in the best interest of the district, labor officials disagree. According to the Star Tribune, union officials are considering filing an unfair labor practice lawsuit as a result of this decision.
Editor's Note: This article now reflects a correction. There will be 118 bus drivers laid off because of this decision, not 135 as the article previously mentioned.