Workers for a Ronkonkoma-based school bus company have voted to approve a new three-year contract, ending the threat of a strike that would have affected 15,000 students in about 35 districts, union officials said Monday.
The vote by members of Teamsters Local 1205, conducted over several days at work sites for Baumann & Sons Inc., and its affiliate, Acme Buses, was decisive: The contract was approved by 84 percent of those voting. An estimated 1,035 members were eligible to participate.
The deal ends a monthslong labor dispute that escalated in late August when union president Timothy Lynch notified districts with Baumann/Acme contracts that a strike was imminent.
"The agreement is truly a win-win proposition," company officials said in a statement. "Employees will benefit from fair improvements over the term, while the company has achieved needed relief and cost containment throughout the agreement."
Lynch, in a statement, said the deal was an improvement over the previous three-year contract. He cited higher hourly wages for several hundred workers this year, and for all employees in years two and three of the pact; increases in the number of paid days off; more daily minimum guaranteed hours of pay; and a better method for accruing and taking sick or personal days.
"The majority strongly felt that considering this tough economy, we got what was needed," he said in the statement.
On Oct. 17, a narrow majority of voting members rejected a previous proposal that Baumann/Acme officials had said would be their final offer. The company responded by criticizing the process: Officials objected that more company workers had not voted and that the vote did not reflect what the majority of employees wanted.
The next day, Lynch announced there was a possibility of a resolution, and by Oct. 20, the two sides said they had a tentative deal that the Teamsters negotiating team said it could support. In addition, the union said voting on the new proposal would be held over several days at the company's work sites.
Lynch, in response to questions, said the most significant differences between the rejected contract and the approved deal were that employees who have unused, earned sick days will be able to keep them, and employer contributions to the family medical plan will remain unchanged.