Douglas County School District bus drivers made the difficult decision to forgo pay on snow days in the upcoming school year. It's a deal made the future in mind, said Gary Schweers, president of Amalgamated Transit Union 1737.
“That was a strategic concession on our part,” he said. “My view is we need to look at the long range. If we're not too difficult during difficult times, when things are better, things will be better for us, too. We still have an $18 million shortfall.”
As it's offering its teachers through their contract negotiations, the district agreed to a 1 percent raise and 1 percent retention bonus for ATU members. It's also offered them paid online training on the first snow day of the season as partial compensation for the potential loss of income. No such options will be available on subsequent snow days.
While Schweers described the recent negotiations as “positive and collaborative” during the May 1 school board meeting, the snow-day decision did not come easy.
“It didn't sit well with our membership,” he said. “Every other school district along the Front Range has snow days. A snow day doesn't make any difference to teachers; they're not hourly like we are. But I think when we look at it five years down the road, and it will have been a good decision to have made at the time.”
The ATU's concession will save the district about $43,000 for each non-paid snow day. But just as students can't plan on snow days, the district isn't planning for any extra funds.
“We could have a zero-snow day situation,” spokesperson Randy Barber said.
The school board voted May 1 to approve the tentative 2012-13 contract with its nearly 400 bus drivers and mechanics. The deal is nearly done, but not quite. ATU members still have details to work through, including approval of resumption of its pay-for-performance system, suspended during the last four years of budget cuts, and a new annual evaluation system.
ATU is one of three unions engaged in annual contract negotiations with the district.
The Douglas County Federation of Teachers represents the district's 3,500 teachers. Its ongoing negotiations this year were made public and resume May 9. DCF negotiations have at times been contentious, and the tentative agreement with the ATU is a relief for the district, Barber said.
“For us, what it shows is we're not anti-union,” he said.
Another nearly 3,000 people fall under the definition of “classified employees,” and include janitors, administrative assistants, teachers' aides, lunchroom workers and other support staff. They are represented through the Douglas County Federation of Classified Employees, under the same umbrella as the teachers union. Those negotiations also are ongoing.