Bus drivers, employer continue negotiations after Beaufort County union members vote to strike

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 4, 2013 

In this file photo, Red Cedar Elementary School students wait to board the school buses at the end of the school day at Red Cedar Elementary School in Bluffton.

DELAYNA EARLEY, THE ISLAND PACKET

The Teamsters union and the company that provides bus service for the Beaufort County School District resumed negotiations Monday in Charleston, and talks are expected to continue this week, according to a school district spokesman.

Durham School Services and Teamsters Local 509, based in Columbia, have been negotiating since July over pay and benefits for union drivers and bus monitors, including about 100 who work for the Beaufort County School District. They have been working without a contract since then.

Beaufort County union members voted last week to strike should negotiations fail. Neither Durham nor the Teamsters has set a deadline for a deal.

Durham brought in temporary drivers from out of state last week and began running advertisements Wednesday to recruit new local drivers should there be a strike. Durham drivers from other states also are arriving in South Carolina and are on standby, according to the school district.

Beaufort County public schools will remain open even if drivers strike, district officials have said. Durham staff in Beaufort County have been making plans to adjust routes and schedules and to use replacement drivers if a strike should occur.

About half of the district's 200 school bus drivers and monitors are union members.

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