LEE COUNTY — The Lee County School District is reassuring parents that the buses will be on time Tuesday.
This comes after 83 drivers called out sick in the East Zone Monday, causing some kids to be left at the bus stop without a ride.
The School District believes it was a planned protest, like a strike, but bus drivers are not allowed to strike in the State of Florida by law, so they’re investigating this as an illegal work stoppage.
Transportation Director Robert Lloyd said, however, that he is aware many drivers are upset over their working conditions.
Lloyd said the 83 drivers that called out were responsible for at least two routes apiece, meaning at least 166 routes were missed.
"There appears to have been a concerted effort to not come to work today in the East Zone," said Lloyd.
Lloyd said he had heard a rumor this might happen, but after checking the staffing numbers, he thought things were fine.
"Last night, the numbers did not look out of the ordinary, however later last night and into this morning, we had like I said 83 people," said Lloyd.
Those 83 drivers not showing up created a problem Lloyd said they’ve never dealt with before.
"This is the first time that we’ve had such a large number where we just could not pick up the students," said Lloyd.
Lloyd said that work stoppage is illegal by law, and the District is taking action.
"The District is investigating this, and we plan to hold people accountable," said Lloyd.
This comes after a meeting last week with Superintendent Ken Savage where bus drivers had the chance to voice their concerns. One woman brought up concerns about her pay, saying “On these 11 years I’ve been working here, I’ve made the same exact money, to the penny, as these brand new drivers that have zero experience.”
Lloyd said, despite Monday’s work stoppage, the District is trying to work with the drivers.
"They have concerns about insurance and benefits. They do have concerns about the working conditions, and they’re valid," said Lloyd.
Lloyd said he believes that good faith negotiation will keep a bus stoppage from happening again in the future.
"My hope is that it’s a one time deal," said Lloyd.
We were also forwarded an email sent to bus drivers by the head of the Support Personnel Association of Lee County (SPALC), Jamie Michael. She is asking bus drivers not to strike, but rather to work with the District to improve conditions instead of "negatively impacting the learning environment of our students.”