Bus aides miss out on July pay raise Schmoke warns contractors to ante up or risk losing contract

December 12, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Hundreds of Baltimore school bus aides are complaining that their employers are paying them 50 cents less an hour than a city contract requires.

Fed up, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke warned two dozen city contractors yesterday to pay up or risk losing their lucrative contracts with the city.

"If for some reason they are not paying that is a fraud," Schmoke said at the weekly Board of Estimates meeting, which heard complaints of the wage discrepancies.

The aides, who monitor students on school buses, say they are getting $6.10 an hour from 26 businesses contracted by the city to pay $6.60, the latest "living wage" that went into effect in July for about 4,000 service workers who perform work for the city.

In 1994, the city passed a law requiring contractors doing business with the city to pay workers more than the minimum wage. Yesterday, the board approved another 50-cent increase -- to $7.10 -- to take effect in July.

Owners of the businesses that have the school bus contracts -- worth a total of $14.4 million -- contend that the city never notified them in writing about the July increase to $6.60.

"We don't have any information on that," said Al Hajji Hassan Abdullah, owner of City Wide Bus Co. Inc., which has a $2.4 million contract to provide school bus services. "They need to let us know."

But Schmoke said that the contract's intent is clear and that the contractors are trying to wiggle out of paying the required wages.

"That's an absurd position to take," the mayor said. "That's just people trying to avoid their responsibility." He said he

will seek back pay for the workers.

Veronica Jiggetts, a bus aide for City Wide who takes home $121.33 for a 25-hour workweek, said she can't live on the money. "I complained" to City Wide managers, she said. "But it is no use."

The Solidarity Sponsoring Committee, assembled in part by the church-based community organization Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development, is pushing city leaders to clamp down on contractors who refuse to pay the increases.

One bus company has been cited by the city Wage Commission for not paying some employees the correct wage. The commission ordered Eatman's Transportation to pay $5,100 in back wages to 17 bus aides and a $4,800 fine to the city.

The firm has appealed the decision to the Board of Estimates.

Pub Date: 12/12/96

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