Buses were rolling Thursday morning for the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools, just one day after a bus driver sickout forced cancellation of classes for the district's 15,000 students.
The district called off school Wednesday when more than 25 percent of the drivers called out sick.
Sources tell Local 4 the bus drivers don't get paid for sick days that go unused at the end of the year, so many are using them now. Others suggested it was a type of protest to the district's recent decision to privatize their bus services.
Walled Lake schools to privatize buses
The Walled Lake Consolidated Schools Board of Education voted 7-0 last week in favor of privatizing the district's bus services.
Superintendent Kenneth Gutman said the move to privatize will save the district $1.4 million a year for each of the next three years. "We love our drivers. They're outstanding. It's not personal," he said.
Statement from bus driver union:
May 9, 2013
Dear Parents, Friends, Co-Workers and members of our community,
The Walled Lake Consolidated School District has been quite verbal in placing the blame for the closing of district services on Thursday, May 8, 2013 squarely on the shoulders of the bus drivers. Ken Gutman, Superintendent of Walled Lake Schools has accused the drivers of using the students as "pawns". This statement alone indicates that the district sees this entire issue as a "game". We do not. As one of the lead negotiators and spokesperson for the bus drivers union, let me be perfectly clear - There was NO work stoppage or sick out scheduled or sanctioned by the bus drivers or their union (the Michigan Education Association).
As the district will surely attest to, there were a very large number of drivers that did show up for work as usual on Wednesday morning, prepared and ready to fulfill their employment obligation. A large number did NOT show up, as Walled Lake School's own Skylert notification service contacted them BEFORE they were scheduled to report. If there were a number of drivers ill that morning, the cause would ONLY genuine illness possibly due to the following:
1. ALL drivers & para-professionals were laid off as of last Thursday (May 2) evening for refusing to take a 44% pay reduction in addition to the 30% pay reduction given in 2010. They still came to work on Friday, Monday & Tuesday as scheduled.
2. With lay-off, the district has stripped all of these employees of their jobs, health care, pension, retirement health benefits, longevity & sick pay.
3. On Friday (May 3) the transportation & district administators began questioning, accusing, and attempting disciplinary procedures on more than a dozen drivers for spreading "anti-Walled Lake" propaganda, going so far as to search personal belongings left on buses.
4. The district held a Human Resources meeting this past Tuesday (May 7) evening under the guise of "assisting the transportation employees make the difficult transition" out of employment. At that meeting they announced that they would abide by our contract guidelines, refusing to even consider giving these employees pay for sick time earned and "banked" as severance.
As you can see, Walled Lake is creating an extremely hostile work environment, which directly conflicts with their statement that they "endeavor to do what is best for the children". Our drivers have the highest moral, ethical and safety standards you can possibly imagine. While we have absolutely no intention of preventing any child from achieving an education, neither will our drivers place any child in harm's way by driving a bus and transporting children if they are not absolutely positive that they are totally physically and mentally able.
The Walled Lake Transportation Employees deeply regret that the district has placed the parents and children in our district in such a difficult position. Please know that we will do everything in our power to complete the school year, provided we are not prevented from doing so.
Secretary, Spokesperson, Negotiator
Walled Lake Transportation Association
Transportation letter from superintendent
May 2, 2013
Dear WLCSD Parents and Staff,