Livingston Parish school bus drivers go on strike

UPDATE 10/23/22: The Livingston Parish Public Schools Superintendent responded to the bus drivers strike on Friday via a letter to all employees, parents and students. Below is the letter in it’s entirety:

Dear LPPS Employees, Parents & Students,

On Friday, Oct. 21, some of our schools received notification from their assigned bus drivers that they would not be driving their afternoon routes, with the possibility of not running on Monday, Oct. 24 as an apparent protest for less work and more pay, according to the messages sent to parents by some drivers.

Twenty-one of the district’s bus drivers participated in this act. The absences primarily impacted the Livingston and Walker communities, which accounted for 19 of the 21 absences. Most of those absences were reported after the workday had begun. None of the drivers contacted the district administration to report their absence or to formally file a reason for their absence, other than entering a sick day on the LPPS Frontline program.

First, I want to thank those drivers and employees who took extra routes and stayed at the school after hours to ensure every child was accounted for, was kept safe, and was ultimately delivered home.

Second, I want to clarify the facts regarding the pay and work structure of the district’s bus drivers:

• All LPPS bus drivers are contracted for a five-hour day; however, no driver’s set route schedule requires that much time. With that said, if drivers were to exceed the daily five-hour contract, they are instructed to fill out a supplement pay form.

• While LPPS bus drivers are technically part-time workers at 25 hours per week, they are considered full time and the district pays for 75% of their healthcare costs and receive 10 sick days annually.

• Each LPPS bus driver’s contract is set for 180 days per school year. The district normally has less than that, averaging 177 contact days. Due to this year’s national election and two district wide professional development days, the busses will only run 174 days this schoolyear. Despite working six less days than stipulated in their contracts, bus drivers will still receive full pay.

• Over the past two years, the district has increased permanent pay for all contracted bus drivers by $1,500 annually. In addition to that permanent increase, bus drivers have received the following stipends:

o $1,000 in February 2021

o $750 In October 2021

o $1,000 supplement plus a 3% supplement was approved earlier this school year, and will be paid in two equal lump sums on Nov. 4, 2022, and May 5, 2023.

• At the school board meeting on Thursday, Oct. 20, the board agreed to pay all contracted drivers an additional $10 per extra route, where those drivers exceeded their normal assigned routes during a monthly period. This action was made possible by LPPS submitting a letter to BESE earlier in the calendar year, declaring a bus driver critical shortage and contingent on complying with federal labor laws. To assist in tracking this critical information, the board also created 30 Driver Team Leaders who will receive an additional $1,500 each year.

• And finally, the board has created an Education Facilities Improvement District (EFID) and appointed nine members for the purpose of considering a funding mechanism to give all district employees a permanent pay increase. That newly formed district is set to hold its first meeting on Monday, Oct. 24.

This school board and administration are committed to creating a positive, healthy working environment for all our employees districtwide. Much effort as of late has gone into improving wages, while continuing to provide reliable benefits and a safe working environment.

With that said, we support the well-being of our employees so they in turn can make a positive impact in the lives of the children we serve. I would ask all our employees to keep our children first and to continue being a reliable and trusted presence in our parish.

Best Regards,

Joe Murphy

Superintendent Joe Murphy

ORIGINAL 10/21/22: Some Livingston Parish school bus drivers did not drive their routes today, Oct. 21, due to understaffing and low pay. In total, 21 bus drivers went on strike.

“In my opinion, they’re treated like second class citizens by the administration. They haven’t been heard for so long that they were forced to take these measures,” said Livingston Parish School Board Member Kellee Hennessy.

A bus driver, who wishes to remain anonymous due to potential retaliation, claims the school board will not compensate drivers who have to take on extra routes. Another says the drivers only take home between $500-$1,000 each month.

There are bus drivers on the roster who have to live on food stamps because their jobs as drivers aren’t paying enough. Some drivers can’t even afford to have a personal vehicle because of how low the pay is.

Parents of students at Doyle Elementary will have to make arrangements for the children to be picked up because no buses will be running today, to or from school.

North Corbin Elementary shared to their Facebook that four of their buses- Horse, Turtle, Frog and Diamond- will not run today either.

Walker High with the following buses need to get their own transportation home: Nicole Hodges, Jodi Vague, Penny Delk and Debbie LeJeune.

A message from Remind, an app where bus drivers and anyone involved in school transportation can update parents, details the complaints of bus drivers at Doyle Elementary.

One section of the message reads, “We have several routes that do not even have a driver for them at all. The money from those routes goes into a fund at the school board and not the drivers’ hands. Please call the school board to voice your concern to help the drivers out.”

The message also explains that the bus drivers will not drive their routes again until the matter of their pay is resolved.

The anonymous bus driver said, “I don’t do this job for the money. I do it for my kids on my bus. It’s just so unfair to them for what’s going on with the bus drivers.”

“I think we have major problems with the routing system. We have some buses with 70 children and others with only 15. The routing needs to be re-done completely all over the parish,” said Hennessy.

“We are doing a leasing on school buses. Why not get air-condition buses?

We have a critical shortage of bus drivers but when the drivers pick up additional routes, they’re not getting any extra pay.

When you have a central transportation department that won’t answer calls from drivers, parents and principals, that’s a problem.”

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