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      Ottumwa schools could be affected by bus strike

      Ottumwa schools could be affected by an ongoing bus strike.

      Southern Iowa Transit has a contract with the Ottumwa Community School District to provide transportation service to its students, but in February of this year, SIT's employees asked Teamsters Local 238 to represent them. Since that happened, the two parties have spent eleven sessions negotiating a 15 percent pay increase, sick days, a 401-K plan and other benefits.SIT's president says his organization has offered what he believes to be a fair compromise to Teamsters, offering employees 15 percent more pay than what they were making last year. Due to a two-year contract with the school district, the current rates are binding, according to SIT President Jerry Kjer.

      â??We felt that we made a most gracious offer, and that was rejected, so we're just trying to see what we can do, so that we can continue to provide service,â?? Kjer said. â??Our goal truly is to have no interruption or disruption of service for the local school system.â??

      Kjer says should a strike happen, they will not hire drivers to replace the ones on strike.

      Business Agent Jon Thomas from Teamsters Local 238, the organization representing Southern Iowa Transit's drivers, released a press release last week suggesting negotiations for a pay increase and benefits were not going well. We spoke with Thomas on the phone Monday, and he said he's optimistic that the Teamsters and SIT will be able to work something out.

      â??We feel that the union and the drivers have bargained in good faith to get to a reasonable resolution,â?? Thomas said. â??We are confident that if the company bargains in good faith on Wednesday that there will be no disruptions in services.â??

      That bargaining session will be held Wednesday at the Salvation Army.