UTICA, N.Y. -- The already-strapped Durham School Services just lost about a dozen drivers.
"Pretty much the reason why we were terminated was because we all decided to call in yesterday for the afternoon half of work" says Jose Diaz. "We called in because our wages are being withheld. It's not fair that wages are being withheld from employees after you promised several times to your employees that they would be receiving it on said date. And you're still doing your day in day out job and more."
Diaz and others say the first installment of their sign-on bonus - $1,500 - was not in their checks Friday, as it was supposed to be. But he and his fellow former drivers say it's not all about money.
"We almost fall asleep behind the wheel and it's unsafe," says Leo Munoz. "The normal amount of routes that we had signed on to do was three so we're going about two drivers' worth of work, maybe three, in some cases."
"Yesterday, some of our drivers began making unreasonable monetary demands to remain committed as drivers; which some could be deemed threats made to us, our employees, and the service to the students of the district. We increased all of our drivers' pay by an average of 40% in the summer compared to their prior pay rates, and included drastic sign-on and referral bonuses that will all be paid out over the next few months. The demands they were seeking could not be met," says Edward Flavin, VP of External Communications for Durham School Services.
Asked whether Durham would be able to get all Utica students to school Monday with about a dozen fewer drivers, Munoz said, "No. Without a question."
Flavin says the company will be working tirelessly to make sure all students get to and from school safely, and that delays are expected, but they continue to recruit drivers.