District officials met with SEIU Local 199 representatives Wednesday evening, in the first of a series of bargaining sessions. Initial contract proposals for the union, which represents district bus drivers, and the district’s rebuttal were presented before both sides entered closed negotiations.

SEIU proposed a 70-cent hourly wage increase across the board, as well as the possibility for bonus pay for employees with perfect attendance records. Also included were provisions that give regular employees preference over substitute employees and increased training for transportation monitors.

Audie Schmidt, an SEIU representative, addressed a few concerns relating to employee and student health. The union’s proposal would allow bus drivers and monitors access to student health records when appropriate. Better informed drivers are more suited to ensure student safety, they said.

“Sometimes the student may have a medical condition that drivers and monitors may not be aware of,” Schmidt said at the bargaining session.

The union proposal also included a provision that would require the district to provide flu shots to transportation employees.

“I was surprised to hear that flu shots were not offered to employees of the transportation department,” Schmidt said. “The bus drivers are in an enclosed, small space with children,” which increases opportunities for infection.

The 70-cent hourly wage increase would show a commitment from the district to bring the driver pay scale in line with other districts in the area, union officials said.

Drivers in areas like Bettendorf and Maquoketa are paid considerably higher wages, according to pay comparison compiled by SEIU.

“We would like to see that gap narrowed,” Schmidt said.

The district’s rebuttal rejected the SEIU proposal. But district Human Resources Director Jess Terrell said the intention was to reach a suitable agreement, while avoiding arbitration.

“We believe a settlement between the parties is certainly much better than having a third party involved,” Terrell said.

The district’s rebuttal called for no wage increase.

Terrell explained that though Iowa school districts are allowed 2 percent allowable growth, with declining enrollment, Clinton Community School District will see closer to 1 percent allowable growth. But he said that the district would be willing to work toward a compromise.

Also proposed by the district would be a tiered sick leave structure to bring the district in line with state regulations, and a redefinition of how drivers would qualify for a higher pay scale for transporting students with special needs.

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