‘We need more money’: Wake County bus drivers no-show for 2nd day

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Another day of no-show buses and long carpool lines in Wake County.

Monday marked the second day of the Wake County Schools bus driver “call out,” as they protest working conditions and low pay.

wake County Schools said 160 of 600 buses did not run on Monday.

But CBS 17 crews witnessed longer than usual carpool lines at West Millbrook Middle School in Raleigh, where kids along three different routes, didn’t have a bus driver to take them to and from school.

Across the district, parental frustration is growing.

“It changed my workday. I had to make sure someone could cover my work, so I could come and get my kids to school,” said Joseph Pone, a West Millbrook Middle School parent.

It was the second day he had to change his schedule.

On Friday, a third of bus drivers and safety assistants refused to come to work, hoping to spark a change in their compensation.

Pone, and other parents, are tired of figuring out how their children will get to class.

“I’m not happy about it,” he explained. “Hopefully, I won’t lose so much money, but I definitely had to make the proper adjustments.”

Keith Sutton, chairman of the district’s Board of Education, is also concerned.

The board plans to discuss some possible changes during Tuesday’s meeting.

“[One] that will hopefully put more money in the pockets of bus drivers and safety assistants,” said Sutton.

The proposal includes a $1,250 retention bonus, additional pay for picking up extra routes, a $13 an hour minimum, and 1 perent increase raise for certified staff.

Bus drivers and safety assistants CBS17 crews spoke with said, the proposal isn’t going to cut it.

“It’s a slap in the face,” said Zachary Campbell, a bus driver. “It’s not enough.”

He’s been with the district since 2019 and believes pay needs to keep up with the increasing workload.

“If I can dump the stress of the new responsibilities, such as sanitizing the bus, and having these longer routes, by going over to another county to drive school buses or getting on an Amazon van or a dump truck or something like that, it’s a no brainer,” explained Campbell.

He didn’t call out of his routes on Friday or Monday but supports those who did.

CBS 17 spoke with a safety assistant who did.

She didn’t want to share her name for fear of retribution.

“I stayed home,” she said. “We need more money. Inflation has gone up and things are so high, we cannot even afford to do a decent living because of the money they pay us.”

The safety assistant wants a minimum of $18 an hour for them to go back to work.

When CBS 17 asked her if there are any other callouts planned, she said “I’d rather not say.”

Sutton told CBS 17 he has tried to reach out to bus drivers and others who are protesting the low wages.

“Part of the equation is what we can afford,” said Sutton. “We need to make sure we’re spreading this across all of the employees.”

He hopes they can come to an agreement soon.

“We’re trying our best to reach out to drivers and other leaders to help us sort of reach some kind of an idea,” explained Sutton. “It’ll just continue to impact services to students and their families.”

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