MARLBOROUGH – The following was submitted by Cayla Dodd, one of the bus drivers for Marlborough Public Schools on Bus 22 currently on strike against NRT Bus.
“The school bus drivers continue to strike against their employer NRT for the third day today.
“Since coming back to school following the COVID 19 pandemic working conditions at NRT Bus have been in steady decline. Our working hours went from 30 to 20, and although we understand that that schedule is great for students, it hurt drivers pay significantly. More recently, our employer NRT has instituted a new pay clock system and new policies that have chipped more and more at our working hours, giving us less time to perform adequate safety inspections, and even punching drivers out remotely while they are still on the road.
“We are asking for a minimum hour guarantee for big bus drivers to be able to consistently bring home a decent paycheck. Big bus drivers are not asking for a raise.
“In winter 2023, the city of Marlborough and Marlborough public schools issued a wage increase to $34 an hour for big bus drivers to attract bus drivers from other companies, as this is one of the highest wages in the state. However, they left out SPED and minibus drivers in the new contract. These 15 workers have some of the most unique and difficult jobs in the industry. We are asking NRT for a wage increase for these drivers and their monitors.
“Safety continues to be an ongoing issue at NRT. We are told by the company that any safety issues we might find during our inspection of our vehicles should be written up and turned in. We fill out the required DOT forms and for sometimes weeks on end we will get no response. The company NRT does nothing to fix the issues. Then, if we complain to management, we will often be punished by being given an even worse condition spare bus. Due to this, unsafe buses go out onto the roads each day. We are asking for union protection to be able to effectively enforce safety on the job.
“When school is closed for holidays or inclement weather, bus drivers also lose an entire day or days of pay for that week. Making the pay inconsistent and can leave drivers stuck wondering how they can pay their bills and rent for that week. We are asking for three paid floating holidays per school year.
“All of this is why NRT (Marlborough) continues to have issues with finding enough drivers to fill the bus routes or find drivers to work on school field trips, sports and extracurricular activities. NRT cites this as being due to a driver shortage, but over the past school year we have had several senior drivers leave the company to find more fruitful employment elsewhere. Many of these drivers went to other bus companies because NRT does not take care of their employees or listen to their concerns. We are trying to make NRT a job worth staying at and attempting to retain these drivers for the 23-24 school year.
“We want to thank the teachers, parents and students of Marlborough who have offered their words and gestures of support for school bus drivers as we go through this difficult time. We love what we do, and we feel we are an integral part of this community. We hope that NRT will come back to the negotiating table and do what’s right for their drivers and get students back to a normal school schedule.