Mat-Su school bus driver strike stretches into Monday as contract impasse continues

Durham School Services, bus driver, school bus, school bus driver, strike

PALMER — A school bus worker strike in Mat-Su will continue Monday after both sides failed to come to a contract agreement in a negotiating session Friday.

The strike, expected to enter its fifth day next week, has halted bus service for most of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, with more than 19,000 students over an area about the size of West Virginia.

Drivers and other employees represented by Teamsters Local 959 and district transportation contractor Durham School Services met Friday for the first time after the strike began Tuesday. But there was no progress toward a contract agreement, according to union spokesman Patrick FitzGerald. The picket line resumes Monday, FitzGerald said.

A representative of National Express, Durham’s parent company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Bus drivers, along with a few parents, packed a school board meeting Wednesday evening to vent frustrations and call for district intervention. But the board made it clear they’re staying out of the strike for now.

Durham is operating six buses using “travel” drivers who were working when the union decided to strike, FitzGerald said.

Bus workers walked off the job in the middle of the school day Tuesday after dropping off students at school, leaving administrators and families scrambling to get them home. A union representative said this week that drivers wanted to make sure students were safe and not left waiting at bus stops.


Union members have been without an updated contract since Durham started operations in August. Drivers say their contract issues center on pay as well as safety issues, including nonfunctioning heaters, loudspeakers and windshield wipers.

Durham this week said an Occupational Safety and Health Administration review in October found the company “had complied with all safety expectations.”

The company began the school year with a chaotic start, had a driver charged with sexually abusing a passenger and struggled to fulfill obligations, leading to more than $1.5 million in lost contract revenues as of January.

Durham services 43 schools in Mat-Su. Bus service continues for five schools in the Upper Susitna Valley and for Glacier View, which are serviced by other companies.

There were no additional contract negotiations scheduled as of Friday evening.

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Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at