GLENELG, Md. — Howard County school bus drivers who abandoned their early morning routes one day last week say they returned to work that same afternoon with a promise.
“If we got in the seats and drove that afternoon that we should get the $2,500 bonus within 10 days and then the other $2,500 would come by December 31st,” said Travis Flester as he prepared to leave on his route from a bus lot in Glenelg.
But the deal approved by the school board last night stretches out the second half of that bonus over eight months through June of next year.
“Now, we’re being hijacked and blackmailed from now until the end of the school year,” said Tracy Crowder.
Drivers who have gone without a cost of living increase for more than a decade and were fed up last week are even more angered now.
“We are planning to call out Monday and stay out until we get a written document stating that we are going to get what we want, and I’m sorry, but that’s the way it’s going to be,” said Diann Withers who has been a driver with the county for 49 years.
School bus contractors, like Mike Bowen, learned of the delayed installment plan for the bonuses earlier this week.
“It was presented to our attorney and the contractors on Monday, and we rejected it.”
But it never came up again until it was hastily added to the board’s agenda hours before Thursday night’s meeting.
In a written response to threats of another work stoppage, County Executive Calvin Ball, in part today, said he supports continued conversation with the board to ensure ‘appropriate compensation timing’ while keeping the drivers on the road.
Drivers, like Sharon Decker, also take exception to an out contained in the agreement that doesn’t guarantee they’ll ever see all of their money.
“This document also states that this policy could be canceled because of convenience at any time,” Decker said.
Bus drivers were originally told they would be getting their first lump sum payment today, but that, too, is on hold until contractors sign the controversial, proposed agreement.