Mediator to help settle bus contract

Tuesday, September 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:05 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Norman Beattie of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will be in town today to help with the contract dispute between bus drivers of Union Local 833 and First Student Inc., the area’s school bus provider.

The meeting, requested by both parties, will be held at 10 a.m. at the Days Inn Hotel and Conference Center.

Beattie, of Springfield, Mo., said both parties will be able to use him as a tool to find common ground.

“I’m going to get the parties together to clearly understand the issues,” Beattie said.

To settle the dispute, Beattie plans to separate each party and hold private meetings.

“They will hopefully be more candid with me than they are with each other,” he said.

Mark Bruemmer, business agent for Local 833, is hopeful the mediator will help both sides come to a resolution.

“He’s there to help, not hinder,” Bruemmer said. “He will be supportive of both the union and the company.”

After the private meetings, Beattie will bring the two groups together for more discussion.

“We’ll get the parties back together and see if there is any room for compromise there,” he said.

According to Beattie, the FMCS does not have the authority to force any decisions; instead, their presence is in-tended to help jump-start stalled negotiation talks.

The two sides are in disagreement over the contract’s wording, pay increase and medical benefits.

Tom Secrest, director of labor relations for First Student Inc., has been handling the company’s side of the contract negotiations. He said the presence of a mediator will help improve communication.

“The reason we haven’t been successful is because of a misunderstanding,” Secrest said. “Hopefully, a mediator will be able to clear that up.”

Beattie has been a mediator since 1984.

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