Bus driver union claims Stamford schools refuse to pay due to campuses closed over coronavirus

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A bus driver union is claiming that Stamford Public Schools is refusing to pay private bus carrier First Student because campuses are closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Terrell Lewis, a bus driver, says it has been weeks since he last got paid. He's one of about 200 drivers and monitors who are off the job and off the payroll.

The Teamsters Local 191 Union says it sent a letter to Stamford's mayor and school superintendent, pointing out that neighboring districts are paying their bus companies because the money is already budgeted.

First Student tells News 12, "Despite our repeated urging, Stamford Public Schools has decided to forgo funding student transportation during this unexpected and unprecedented school closure. As a result, we are not receiving payment from the district, which means it is in the best interest of our employees to file for unemployment or seek employment elsewhere."

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A Stamford schools spokeswoman says officials are looking into the matter.

Lewis says he is applying for unemployment, which he may not qualify for. Many other drivers say they're looking for other jobs.

The union warns that if they leave, school systems might not have enough drivers this fall.

Stamford Public Schools tells News 12, "This is an unprecedented and unfortunate time for our world, as well as our district. All businesses and government agencies alike have to make difficult decisions to ensure we continue to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible during this time. The district values and respects all of the entities that provide services to our district. While unfortunate, it is necessary for the district to modify many of its programs to ensure the continued support and success of our students. The district continues to monitor and reassess these programs on a daily basis. During these unanticipated times the district continues to value its relationship with all of our contracted service providers, including First Student. It is important to recognize that the bus drivers are employed directly by First Student, and are not employees of the district."

The Teamsters Local 191 Union says it's having a similar issue with Bridgeport Public Schools. News 12 reached out to the district for comment.

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