Christopher Mosz has ferried children to and from school in the Central Bucks School District for eight years, but now he’s in danger of losing his job within a year or two.
Mosz and other Central Bucks bus drivers plan to meet Tuesday morning to talk strategy in the fight to keep their jobs as district bus drivers.
They plan to attend Tuesday night’s to protest the district’s plan to eliminate a batch of drivers’ jobs after this school year is over, and more in following years, until all the bus service in the district is provided by a company, First Student, on a contract basis.
“Rumors have been flying for a couple months that the district was going to eliminate 37 runs and 37 drivers this year until we’re all gone,” Mosz said Monday. “That will take up to four years, if they do what they say they plan to do.”
Mosz, who lives in Doylestown Township, is part of a task force of bus drivers that has been meeting to address the issue. The drivers’ contract is up July 1, he said, and they’ve been trying to work out details of a new one. So far, they’ve been unsuccessful, he said, despite offers to take a pay cut and make other concessions.
“We’re willing to work with the school district, and they’re just being close-mouthed. It’s real frustrating.”
As he is higher up the seniority list, Mosz said he would probably keep his job through the first round of cuts, but probably would get laid off in the second or third year.
Many others are not so lucky, he said.
“I work with a number of the 37 lowest on the seniority list, and they are really stressed out,” he said. “A lot of the newer hires are younger people with families, so they’re really going to lose a lot.”
Several of the district’s bus routes already are contracted to First Student, the nation’s largest school bus transportation company.
First Student has been working with the Central Bucks School District since 1998, company spokeswoman Bonnie Bastian said Monday. Today, the company runs 92 of the district's bus routes, she said.
With headquarters in Cincinnati, OH, First Student transports more than 6 million children to school each day in about 650 communities in the United States and Canada, Bastian said. The company owns about 60,000 buses and employs 67,500 people, she said.
Besides Central Bucks, First Student works with about 80 other school districts and private schools in Pennsylvania, Bastian said. For schools, the biggest benefit of outsourcing transportation is fewer headaches, she said.
"It takes the day to day transportation worries off their hands so they can focus on education," Bastian said.
The Central Bucks drivers have been told that they would be offered jobs at First Student, and Bastian said that is usually how the company works.
"Whenever we come into an area, we’d prefer to have the drivers come on board with us," she said. "They know the students, they know the schools, they know the routes."
But to take those jobs, Mosz said, the Central Bucks drivers would have to take “significant” pay cuts. They also would lose their state-mandated public employee pension and their school district health insurance, which is a major enticement, Mosz said.
“The medical benefits here are top notch,” he said. “That’s why a lot of us drive for the district. So we’ll take up to a $7 an hour cut in pay and we’ll have to take new medical benefits, which we’ve been told are worthless.”
Bastian declined to discuss pay and benefit details, saying that the company pays "a competitive wage."
For now, both the drivers and First Student are playing the waiting game until the school board makes a decision.
"We’ve been working with the district for several years now, and if they so choose, we would love to expand that relationship," Bastian said. "It’s just a matter of waiting to see what they’d like to do and what’s the best decision for them."
School district officials were not immediately available for comment.
The Central Bucks School Board meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the administration building at 16 Welden Dr., Doylestown. To see the full agenda, click here.
Given the issues expected to be addressed and crowds at recent meetings, anyone who wants a seat or even a place to stand inside the room should arrive early.