By Shawn Regan
---- — It took three years of talks, but the city’s school bus drivers and monitors got their first-ever contract and pay raises starting this week.
Bus and van drivers are to receive 5 percent raises. Bus monitors will see their pay increased from $9.31 per hour to $10.
The School Committee approved the agreement with the Haverhill Transportation Group last week. It covers fiscal years 2011 through 2014.
The city has about 45 bus drivers.
Assistant School Superintendent Kara Kosmes said negotiations with the union began more than three years ago. She said the pay raises are effective this week, but that there are no retroactive increases in the deal.
The workers also agreed to pay more for their health care, from 20 percent of premiums to 25 percent. New hires will pay 30 percent.
The pact includes sick-leave reforms that most other city unions have agreed to in recent years, including that workers provide medical documentation when they are out sick for three consecutive days or more, or when they are out sick the day before or after a holiday.
The School Committee also gained the right to require that any transportation worker submit to an independent medical exam, paid for the by the School Department, to determine whether an employee is fit to return to work after an extended illness or injury-related absence.
According to the contract, employees who work 10 months per year get 10 paid vacation days annually and year-round employees get 12 days. Part-timers are eligible for five paid vacation days per year.
Transportation workers are also subject to an annual, formal evaluation, according to the agreement.
The contract says the School Department will provide shirts for transportation staff and that the workers must comply with a “dress code” established by the transportation supervisor. Workers will also be issued identification cards.
The contract also says, starting with employees’ next pay checks, dues will be deducted for the SEIU Local 888 union.