XENIA — Despite ongoing labor negotiations, Xenia will not be without school bus service for the immediate future.
The drivers are currently working out a new contract with First Student, which provides vehicles and drivers via contract with Xenia Community Schools. According to social media posts from people with knowledge of the situation, a strike was possible as early as Monday, Oct. 19.
However, the drivers, represented by the Teamsters, are unable to strike until early November due to a 21-day “cooling off” clause invoked by First Student, which has a national agreement with the Teamsters.
According to First Student spokesperson Chris Kemper, the agreement outlines terms for bargaining and labor stoppages, and allows either side to invoke the aforementioned 21-day period. In the meantime, Kemper said negotiations will continue.
“We certainly respect our employees’ right to collective bargaining,” he said. “We will continue to bargain in good faith.”
The district was also involved in negotiations with First Student and was prepared to seek quotes from alternate transportation until agreeing to a five-year deal in June. School officials are keeping an eye on the latest development.
“First Student, Inc. is currently in negotiation talks with XCS bus drivers,” Xenia Superintendent Dr. Gabe Lofton said. “Contract negotiations are ongoing and follow a certain process as dictated by law. The district will continue to monitor the situation, and make adjustments as necessary.”
Kemper said the cooling off period will expire at the end of the first week of November.
A force majeure clause in the contract stipulates that if the contractor (First Student) “is unable to provide the transportation services as specified in this Agreement, or is unable to comply with its requirements under this Agreement, because of any act of God, civil disturbance, fire, riot, war, terrorism, picketing, strike, labor dispute, labor shortages, governmental action or any other condition or cause beyond Contractor’s control or any other force majeure clause as defined by state law, District shall excuse Contractor from performance under this Agreement.”