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Union warns of school bus strike

The union representing bus drivers for the Portland Public Schools are warning they could strike after Feb. 13.

Amalgamated Transit Union 757 is negotiating a new contract with First Student, the Scotland-based company employee the drivers. The previous contract ended on Aug. 13, 2012.

First Student has made a final offer that the drivers will vote to accept or reject on Feb. 13. The drivers have already authorized a strike if the offer is rejected. ATU 757 is recommending a "no" vote.

According to ATU 757 Vice President Jonathan Hunt, a sticking point has been First Student's insistence that new hires will pay 100% of their medical insurance.

“The company’s insurance is a high-deductible plan which translates to no health insurance for our members,” says Hunt. “Why, because our drivers can not afford this health insurance.”

According to ATU 757, the average first year driver takes home $930.00 per month. First Student’s health insurance averages $822.45 per month for single person coverage, netting $70 per month for wages. Hunt says that having drivers with no health insurance transporting the community’s children, without medical care, is "immoral.”

“We stand together with the teachers of Portland Public Schools and demand better for our children and our community," says Hunt.

ATU 757 also represents most TriMet employees. TriMet has requested mediation to resolve its longrunning contract dispute with the union.