The Anchorage school board has approved a three-year contract between the district and Teamsters Local 959, the union that represents some of its bus drivers.
The contract increases hourly pay and contributions to drivers’ health care plans. It also gives drivers more opportunities to take on extra work and earn overtime pay.
Students in the Anchorage school district have had rotating bus service since the beginning of the year due to an ongoing driver shortage. The district currently lacks 35 drivers and has offered signing bonuses and paid training opportunities in an effort to recruit them.
Union spokesman Derek Musto told the board Tuesday that drivers play an important role in the county.
“These professionals are the first and last non-home grown adults our children see every day and they play a vital role in safety for our school district and our community,” Musto said.
He also noted that bus drivers often work unpredictable hours for only nine months of the year.
The district had been paying drivers $7 to $9 an hour less than the city’s bus program and tour companies.
Negotiations for the new contract began in April. School board member Carl Jacobs said the pay raise and other improvements would be a long time coming.
“I guess I wanted to apologize to the Teamster members that this took so long,” Jacobs said. “I think a contract that had appropriate terms given the level of service and sacrifice of these members of the public service is long overdue.”
The contract is valid until June 2025.