Miami-Dade School Board votes to probe bus driver ‘sick-outs’

The Miami-Dade School Board voted Wednesday to request an investigation into whether hundreds of bus drivers engaged in an illegal strike.

District administrators said they’re already looking into the roughly 250 absences on Friday, which union and district officials have attributed to frustration over a sudden increase in healthcare costs that kicked in amid stalled contract negotiations. Many of the absences — including a few dozen on Monday — were covered by backup drivers.

But many students were late and some were never picked up because there were some routes that couldn’t be covered.

“People need to be held accountable because if the message is ‘this can happen without consequence,’ that makes it very likely it will happen again,” said board member Carlos Curbelo, who requested the vote.

Florida law bans public employee strikes. Unions found to have played a role in a strike can lose their certification and face hefty fines. Employees can be fired. District officials say a few employees might have instigated the absences, and they don’t believe the local chapter of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was involved.

The district and union remained at odds Wednesday over who should and can legally bear the sudden but temporary increase in healthcare costs. But Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the district hopes to come to a deal Thursday that would allow a “vast majority” of the union’s employees to once again be eligible for the district’s free employee-only option.

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