Talks to avert Forest Lake school bus driver strike continue Friday; the union is planning Monday’s meeting for members

Forest Lake school bus drivers and Forest Lake Area School District officials will meet Friday morning to continue negotiations with the help of a mediator as the possibility of a strike looms.

If no deal is reached, the district’s 76 school bus drivers and special education bus aides plan to strike Tuesday.

“We’ve all cleared our calendars for the weekend,” said Amy Perusse, a negotiator and business agent for Teamsters Local 320, the union that represents drivers and assistants. “We can stay as late as necessary on Friday and are willing to work through the weekend so we have something to take to members on Monday.”

Citing low wages and long hours, the union notified district officials on April 15 that they had filed a the intention to hit with the State Office of Mediation Services. “The main sticking points continue to be wages and the ability to recruit and retain drivers,” Perusse said.

Union officials have called a meeting for 4:30 p.m. Monday, with hopes of a vote by 6 p.m., Perusse said.

“Hopefully there will be some kind of agreement to bring members back for a vote,” she said. “We really want to reach an agreement. We don’t want to disrupt students and their families.”

The potential strike would impact students attending Forest Lake area schools, Lakes International Language Academy, North Lakes Academy and St. Peter Catholic School.

Superintendent Steve Massey said district officials appreciate the work of the bus drivers and their assistants.

“We are optimistic that we will be able to find new common ground,” he said in a statement. “The district will work as long as necessary to resolve the issues with the hope of avoiding a strike.”

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