Palm Beach County school bus drivers gathered by the dozens outside a district transportation compound Wednesday to protest working conditions. Vacancies have more than doubled since before the pandemic, hitting 184 of 692 positions as of this week, up from 160 vacancies in late September.
Drivers are doubling- and tripling-up on routes to cover those vacancies, adding to both their hours and their exposure to health risks as COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community.
They continue to rally for better pay and more input when it comes to routes and logistics. Alphonso Mayfield, president of the union representing drivers, the SEIU/FPSU, said Monday that the drivers are looking for a "cultural' shift in management.
District officials say they have been working to address the driver shortage and related concerns.
The average pay for a school district bus driver is $23,986 for 180 duty days. The beginner pay, which has been boosted in recent years to lure more people to the profession, is $21,716.
A statement issued by the district Wednesday morning said:
"Palm Beach County school bus drivers are valued and among the District's most dedicated employees. In an effort to retain them, and attract additional drivers, the District has increased driver pay, added a $1,000 bonus as a way of saying thank you to existing drivers, and as an incentive to attract new drivers, and is creating part-time positions for added flexibility. We will continue seeking additional solutions and we appreciate the patience and professionalism of our drivers during this process.
"Palm Beach County, like the rest of the nation, continues to experience difficulty in recruiting drivers, as they are in high demand in various sectors of the economy. "
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Palm Beach County school bus drivers protest over pay, extra routes