UPDATE: Mandatory meeting held after almost 40 Portsmouth bus drivers call-in sick to work

Posted at 6:04 PM, Nov 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-04 20:19:42-05

UPDATE: Today a mandatory meeting was held to address issues brought to light by drivers who say they want more respect and better pay in Portsmouth. 

Today they would not give us a clear answer after the staff meeting. No one would admit it was a protest, but one driver did say there are issues that the drivers are unhappy about. 

"They`re hiring new drivers at $11.75 an hour and I`ve been here eight years and I make 80 cents more than a brand new driver. There`s an issue. "

During the meeting, drivers talked about low wages, no pay on holidays, making multiple runs and faulty equipment. 

Right now, it is unknown how many school bus drivers will be behind the wheel. 

Portsmouth, Va. - More money and more respect. That's why a Portsmouth bus driver tells NewsChannel 3 thirty-eight of her 105 coworkers didn't show up for work today.

She only agreed to talk to us if we didn't reveal her identity.

"I`m afraid I`ll get in trouble and I can`t afford to. They might recognize my voice, but you know you`re afraid! I need the job desperately and you don`t know what the repercussions will be," she said.

She's a longtime bus driver for the district and she makes $15.00 an hour. She says it's not enough.

According to Portsmouth schools website, bus drivers make $11.75 to $17.83 an hour.  School officials say this December, each faculty member will get a 2% raise.

It's not just money. The driver says too many times she's heard of other drivers being put on leave if a parent complains about something happening on their child's bus.

"The parents are always right. We are guilty until we prove ourselves innocent. I think because of that and the stuff we put up with we deserve to have the extra money put in."

NewsChannel 3 tried reaching out to other bus drivers, but no one else would talk to us.

Since so many drivers called out today, principals called parents letting them know elementary school buses could be 15-20 minutes late this afternoon because they are so short-staffed.

The assistant superintendent told NewsChannel 3 he can't say if the school system will take any action against the drivers. He also says they've been dealing with bus driver concerns during the last few months, but he didn't give details.