Bus drivers’ union protests as BCPS explores privatizing transportation department
BAY CITY, Mich. (WNEM) - Bay City Public Schools is exploring bids to take over its transportation department and the union representing the bus drivers was protesting Monday.
Jennifer Irman drives bus number 60 for Bay City Public Schools and is the United Steel Workers Vice President.
“What a morale breaker to come back from spring break to the news that they are trying to privatize our jobs after we have worked so hard day in and day out,” Irman said.
She has been taking students to and from schools for the past five years and said she loves it.
“We offer safe, reliable, and caring transportation. We love our bus kids. We know every kid by name. We care about them like they are our own,” Irman said.
Her job could be in jeopardy. The district is accepting bids from private companies to possibly take over the routes.
Jose Ortega drives bus number nine.
“I honestly, truly love these kids. It’s amazing how you just develop a relationship with them,” Ortega said.
He said the district’s current drivers offer something a private company can’t.
“There is 31 people, employees here that, if you vote yes to privatize, you’re going to change their livelihoods. You’re going to break their hearts for these kids. Not to mention the kids. They are going to be devastated if they lose their bus driver,” Ortega said.
“I have serious concerns about privatization,” said Matthew Felan, BCPS treasurer.
Felan said that even he is not sold on privatizing.
“But how this works is the district comes to us with options. We then look at the options to consider what’s best. I’m just laying it out there to be as transparent as possible from the beginning. I have serious doubts about whether that’s the right effort,” Felan said.
Last week the district’s superintendent, Stephen Bigelow, said they are reviewing other proposals to see if they’re competitive with what a third-party provider would charge.
Drivers like Ortega and Irman fear the district may go with a cheaper option and that their jobs are on the line.
“My son, when he said ‘you should become a bus driver,’ I said you’re crazy... I wouldn’t do anything else,” Ortega said.
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