SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- Hours after the school bus drivers' union voted down Durham's latest contract offer, the two agreed to a 30-day extension of the current contract.
Both also agreed to continue negotiations in private.
Full joint statement:
Durham School Services and Teamsters 984 have agreed to a 30 day extension of the current agreement covering Durham’s employees serving Shelby County Schools. In addition to the 30 day extension of the current agreement, both sides have committed to continuing negotiations. The negotiations will resume in private with both parties agreeing to withhold further public comment so progress can be made at the bargaining table.
When the more than 50 percent of union members voted against the contract offer, leaders said it wasn't about economics, but rather the language in the contract.
Union President Terry Lovan said the bus drivers who voted the deal down feel disrespected by the contract, and they wouldn't get behind the wheel until that changed.
“It’s not a job at the bottom of the barrel, we’re asking for dignity and respect," he said.
Union leaders also said they were willing to sit down again before Monday to work out a deal with Durham, which led to the current contract's extension.
"If we have to, and they are willing to go back to the table we will do that between now and Monday morning," Lovan said after the proposed contract was rejected.
The bus company, on the other hand, had said the latest contract was their last, best, and final offer.
Ed Houston is one of the unionized bus drivers for local 984. He said Thursday many of his union’s men and women have been carrying kids to school for 30 or 40 years with the former Memphis City Schools.
He said, "We are not hauling boxes or cargo we are hauling life."
Houston said the meeting Friday afternoon was intense and emotional, and his drivers felt discouraged. He also said they wouldn't budge until a better contract was presented.
"We are not looking forward to or are we expecting to go out on strike. We expect to go back to the company and work things out," he said.
Durham is the company that MCS used to bring kids to school. Durham also agreed to bus kids for the suburban schools, in addition to the new SCS, so a problem with Durham means a problem for everyone.
When WREG asked Thursday if the drivers would strike if they voted down the contract offer, Lovan replied, “It’s a possibility."
The contract extension has ended that possibility, at least for now.