COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Bus drivers in Muscogee County are not happy, and they packed Carver High School's auditorium Wednesday night to tell the superintendent how they feel.
Last week, school bus drivers organized a work stoppage where 75 drivers called out at the same time, delaying pick up and drop off routes by up to 45 minutes.
One parent said she has mixed feelings on the subject. "I'm in favor of what they're doing. I just wish that it did not involve our children."
Drivers say they haven't received a raise in more than five years while some central administrators have received substantial increases in their pay during that time. Incoming board member John Thomas tried to attend tonight's discussion between the superintendent and drivers, but he was kicked out.
"The question is, why haven't the bus drivers gotten a raise? If there is anyone in the school district who has a tougher job than teachers, it's bus drivers," said Thomas.
In a letter to drivers last week, the superintendent explains a bus driver raise would come at the expense of more layoffs and furlough days.
"Transportation only lost one budgeted position . . . and kept a full calendar year of work," Superintendent David Lewis said of the last year. "Unfortunately, there was no money to give salary increases from the remaining available funds, especially while other employees that have also provided long and loyal service to the MCSD were losing their income and employment."
We weren't allowed inside the meeting and we haven't received an official update about the discussion, but drivers leaving the parking lot gave us some reaction.
"We didn't get any results. He's making promises he can't keep. We're still stuck at a loss," said one bus driver.
Another bus driver said, "I believe he has a plan. We need to give him a chance to work his plan. He let us know that he's going to work for our good, so we've just got to wait and see what happens. Everything takes time."
Right now there's no word on whether the drivers are planning another service disruption in the future to demonstrate their dissatisfaction.
A person familiar with the hiring process for bus drivers says the selection is very exclusive, and only about one out of five people who apply are qualified. They added that it takes a full six months of training for a driver to be ready for the road, so it will be hard to replace them if the discussion takes a bad turn.