MARLBOROUGH – Mayor Arthur Vigeant is joining the call for Teamsters Local 170 and North Reading Transportation to reach a new contract in order to avert a school bus driver strike.
On Thursday, May 4, the mayor, who is also chairman of the School Committee, sent the following letter:
“To the Teamsters Local 170, Marlborough School Bus Drivers, North Reading Transportation (NRT), and Beacon Mobility:
“The city of Marlborough is disappointed in your inability to resolve a labor matter, and your threat to strike despite knowing very well the potential mental and physical impact to the well–being of Marlborough children. You are looking out for your own financial gains while completely dismissing the impact a strike would have on innocent students who have no skin in your fight.
“The city and the School District have no control over your private labor dispute, but your decisions will have serious consequences for our District and the children we serve. May I remind you, we, the customer, initiated the contract change with NRT on January 1, 2023 and included a 28% INCREASE for your bus drivers from $26.50 to $34.00 hourly rate (one of the highest in the state) specifically so we would not have a shortage of bus drivers.
“A strike caused by your actions will deprive students from access to critical academic content on the week of their MCAS tests affecting the students‘ futures, most concerning is the “grade 11 junior” population. Special education students may miss out on important services, and children who rely on school breakfast and lunch daily will not have access to those meals. This is not acceptable.
“These facts have been clearly communicated to you every day over the past week, yet the threat of strike continues. I find your dismissal of the safety and well–being of the children in our city is inexcusable, offensive and irresponsible. Putting innocent children at risk should never be an acceptable negotiation tactic. Our children are too precious to be negotiation chips in the meddling of private entities. It seems our students are the perfect pawns for Jim Marks and his Teamster negotiating team.
“I call on North Reading Transportation, Beacon Mobility, Teamsters Union Local 170, and the contingency of Marlborough drivers to do what you know in your hearts is right: Look out for the interest of innocent children above ALL else. We are all here to serve them first, and not our own financial gains.
“During COVID our bus drivers never lost a day’s wage, and they proudly delivered meals to all of our students and their families.
“The city of Marlborough has and will continue to negotiate with all bargaining units in good faith. I suggest NRT, Beacon Mobility and Teamsters Union Local 170 do the same. The city, its School Committee, school administrators, faculty, and staff will do everything in its power to continue providing access to education and critical services to our students, and we hope we can count on you to do the same.
Please stay at the table and get this done!”
Vigeant’s letter comes as Marlborough Superintendent Mary Murphy also issued a statement, calling on the union and NRT to reach a settlement.
The Community Advocate had reached out to both NRT and the Teamsters for comment.