Officials from Union Local 833, representing bus drivers for Columbia Public Schools, released more details Thursday about the group’s new contract with First Student Inc., which provides school bus service to the area.
Hourly pay increases for union members will be between 35 cents to $2 more per hour.
Pay increases will average about 4 percent in the first year, said Lewis Lowry, regional vice president for First Student Inc. Each summer, employees will receive raises.
Mark Bruemmer, the business agent for Union Local 833, said the increases are based on the length of time employees have been with the company.
“It all depends on where you stand in seniority,” Bruemmer said.
The contract, which passed in a 92-23 vote, also includes increased health benefits. Several health plans are available through First Student and Bruemmer said the company will pay higher premiums for employees under the new contract.
Bruemmer said the increased benefits might encourage more employees to get health insurance through First Student.
A “longevity bonus” was also added to the contract, Lowry said.
Employees receive end-of-the-year bonuses for every five years they work for the company. An employee that has been with First Student for five years will receive a bonus of $150; an employee who has worked for 10 years will receive $550.
Bruemmer said longevity is a big factor for pay increases.
The language in the contract was “tweaked,” clarifying how employees can challenge policies and procedures, he said. Employees can now challenge work rules, including inconsistent or excessive disciplinary procedures.
Lowry said most of the language remains the same, but some changes were added to clarify gray areas.
Before the new contract, hourly wages ranged from $9 to $13.65. They now range from $9.25 to $14.25 and by 2007 will be from $10 to $15.85.
Employees will also receive retro-active pay beginning Aug. 1. First Student and local 833 will negotiate again in 2008.
“Now that this is behind us, our focus is to continue to provide safe, reliable and quality bus service that only our bus drivers and management can provide,” Lowry said.