Citing the essential nature of their work and safety concerns in performing it during the pandemic, bus drivers in the Iowa City School District have asked for and will receive a pandemic stipend.
A total of 103 drivers will receive stipends
Although it wasn't as much as they asked for, each driver will receive a one-time payment of $750. It was approved Tuesday by the Iowa City School Board in the wake of the drivers' time spent working in an uncertain health environment (and in some cases, not working at times when school was canceled).
Dan Ramsey is a driver with ICCSD who also operates as a liaison between them and their union. As Ramsey told the Iowa City Press-Citizen, considering the stipends given to administrative staff ($2,750), teachers ($1,650) and year-round support staff, as well as paraeducators ($750), secretaries and nutrition service workers, he felt bus drivers were just as essential, and vulnerable to conditions created by the pandemic, and deserved to be included.
Ramsey points out that while other industries were making accommodations for "social distancing" in the workplace or offering hazard pay for showing up to work during the pandemic, he and his colleagues were, at times, transporting up to 50 students at a time in a relatively small and congested space on the bus.
Bus drivers are not employed by the school district
As to why they previously declined giving hazard pay to bus drivers, the ICCSD cited that they are not actually employed by the school district, but rather the Illinois Central School Bus, LLC. Still, the district has agreed to provide a minimum stipend as requested.
More built-in benefits in the next drivers' contract?
Going forward, Ramsey thinks an easy way to reward drivers would be to include additional benefits in their next contract. That comes up for discussion in July, and Ramsey suggests the district should increase their available paid holidays, PTO days, and sick days (they currently get two, zero, and none, respectively.) School was canceled due to weather five times in January alone, which drivers don't get paid for. Whether that request is granted will again be determined in July.