MARLBOROUGH — School bus service returned to normal Thursday morning in Marlborough, after an agreement was reached Wednesday night between the union that represents striking bus drivers and their employer — and ending a three-day strike that prompted thousands of students and parents to find an alternative way to get to and from school.
Teamsters Local 170, the Worcester-based labor union that represents the bus drivers, and North Reading Transportation Inc. (NRT), the city's bus service supplier, announced Wednesday night that they reached an agreement at about 8:30 p.m.
Moments later, the Marlborough Public Schools website announced that the strike was over and that busing would resume under its normal schedule beginning Thursday morning.
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"NRT is pleased to report that they have reached an agreement with Teamsters Local 170 for the Marlborough contract, effectively ending the strike immediately," NRT officials announced Wednesday night.
Details of the agreement were not immediately known.
The strike started Monday after NRT and Teamsters Local 170 failed to reach a new agreement. Local bus drivers cited a reduction in hours, as well as smaller bus drivers and monitors failing to get a raise, as key issues that prevented them from signing a contract.
The strike left thousands of students in Marlborough needing to find alternate ways to get to school. While NRT did provide temporary drivers to drive a small number of buses, many students were dropped off by parents and other caregivers, causing extensive traffic backups around schools during pick-up and drop-off hours.
Marlborough Public Schools also set up extended pathways for students walking to school from longer distances, relying on volunteers and members of the Marlborough Police Department to assist them.
Bus drivers reported to work Thursday
Jim Marks, a business agent for Teamsters Local 170, confirmed Wednesday night that an agreement had been reached. He said all drivers — about 55 — would report for work Thursday morning, and that he would issue an official statement at that time. He hadn't done so by the Daily News' Thursday print deadline.
Tim Sheehan, senior vice president of operations for New England for NRT, thanked Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant and Marlborough school officials for helping the two sides come to an agreement.
“I want to thank the Mayor of Marlborough, the School Committee and the Marlborough School Administration, as well as their staffs and constituents, for their patience and support during this challenging and stressful period,” Sheehan said.
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Marlborough Superintendent Mary Murphy issued a statement to the Daily News saying that she is thankful the strike is finally in the rear view.
"I am thankful that the strike is settled," she said. "I know the students and families have missed their bus drivers and are happy to see them today. I am grateful to all the volunteers that supported students getting to and from school these past few days."
Westborough to vote on union membership
NRT also announced Wednesday night that Westborough school bus drivers, who are also represented by Teamsters Local 170, will vote to determine whether to continue to be represented by the union.
"Both sides have also agreed to allow the Westborough drivers to vote on whether or not they wish to continue having union representation," NRT stated in a press release. "Until then, the parties agreed to pause all contract negotiations for the Westborough drivers, and the union agreed not to strike. The NRT team will continue to focus on their number-one priority: transporting children to and from school safely every day."
On April 27, the Teamsters sent a letter to school superintendents in Framingham, Marlborough and Westborough, warning they were preparing to strike starting Monday, May 8, if an agreement wasn't reached between the drivers in each community and NRT. Framingham drivers and NRT reached an agreement on Sunday evening, just hours before a strike was to begin.
In Westborough, Teamsters Local 170 said they were not going to strike, but that a contract between the two parties had not been reached, and the two sides had not been at the bargaining table. With Westborough drivers set to vote on union representation, the parties would theoretically be getting one step closer to a resolution.
This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: Marlborough bus driver strike ends; service returns Thursday morning