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Late-night negotiations keep the wheels on the bus going 'round

Parents can breathe a sigh of relief now that school bus drivers have agreed on a new contract and will not go on strike.

Parents can breathe a sigh of relief now that school bus drivers have agreed on a new contract and will not go on strike.

As late as Saturday afternoon the union and its employer, Stock Transportation, were worlds apart, said Nova Scotia General Employees Union president Joan Jessome.

But after hours of negotiations a deal was reached after three in the morning yesterday.

“(Union members) are shocked. They didn’t believe that we would get what we got without a strike. They’re very pleased,” said Jessome.

“They stuck together. They would have gone out if necessary, but they’re very relieved they didn’t have to.”

As of today bus drivers’ salaries will top out at $15 per hour, up from the $12.49 they made previously.

That extends retroactively to the summer when the last contract expired.

The deal also has other perks, like two extra days off per year.

The contract was accepted by 85 per cent of the 247 union members who voted.

The province and school board both issued statements of relief that a deal was reached before a strike.

Jessome said she thought Saturday that a strike was inevitable, and the union had already began gearing up.

Stock Transportation’s first offer would have moved wages over $15 only at the end of the contract, with no retroaction. Jessome called that unacceptable.

And while she said she’s pleased with the new schedule, the union still isn’t where it would like to be.

“Not everybody’s happy. There are things we didn’t get and we’re not where we’d like to be. But we are definitely going in the right direction.”

The contract runs until June 2011 and includes 2.9 and 3.7 per cent wage increases in the second and third year respectively.

 
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