Union County works to fill bus driver vacancies

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Like many school districts across North Carolina, Union County is struggling to fill its bus driver shortage.

Currently, the district has about 23 vacancies out of nearly 200 routes.

At the start of the school year, Gov. Roy Cooper called for a 9.5% raise for all school bus drivers plus a $1,500 retention bonus. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, the recently approved state budget gives bus drivers a 2% raise.

For drivers in Union County, that boils down to an extra .35 an hour or $14 a week for 40 hours.

“I felt disappointed. I felt as if, you know, we are already underpaid, at least … you know, get us up to par,” said a bus driver who did not want to be identified over concerns of losing his job. “If anybody has been in the grocery store or the gas pump, things are inflated.”

Union County Public Schools is pitching in more money, so its drivers will get retroactive pay of $1 extra per hour.

Going forward, it’s offering a new incentive, giving drivers an additional $1 an hour if they take on more routes or double runs, which has gotten a mixed reaction from employees.

“Don’t attach strings to it,” the driver told Channel 9. “Give it to us because that’s what we deserve.”

The district says it’s trying to creatively find other ways to fill the vacancies.

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