Lutricia Blunt, Tiger Transit driver, said Groome is exploiting a contract loophole and making employees drive to Atlanta, which is a trip across state lines.
Groome uses the cross-state trip as a reason to not pay their drivers overtime.
“They have it in their contract that when we go over state lines we don’t get paid over time, and I really don’t understand that,” Blunt said.
According to Blunt, the loophole affects all drivers, whether they frequently drive to Atlanta or not.
When a driver is selected to drive a shuttle to Atlanta, their regular pay is also lowered to minimum wage for the duration of the trip.
“I only signed off to drive for the University,” Blunt said.
Vice President of Groome Transportation Chris Groome said via email the cut in overtime pay is a result of the current “economic and business” climate.
“Keeping that in mind, our current service model, which has recently changed, does not allow us to continue to provide overtime wages for our employees,” Groome said.
Despite the company’s decision to cut overtime pay, Groome said Groome Transportation is still going to provide the best possible environment for its employees and customers.
Groome said the company hopes it will maintain its ability to offer an “enjoyable place to work.”
The morale of Tiger Transit employees has suffered from these changes.
“It has made them mean, and they complain a lot and really don’t want to drive anymore,” Blunt said. “A lot of people have quit.”
The United States Department of Labor lists only a few exceptions for employees that do not qualify for overtime pay.
Certain employees of motor carriers are exempt, but there is no specific statement of exemption listed for bus drivers on a transit route, whether they cross state lines or not.
The Auburn University Campus Transit Request for Proposal states Auburn expects the contractor, Groome Transportation in this case, to pay proper wages to drivers and offer an affordable benefits package as well.
Blunt said they are offered insurance, but it is not affordable on the wages a driver earns, and, along with the cut in overtime pay, there are only two items on a long list of employee grievances.
Tiger Transit driver Nettie Chambers said if a driver refuses to drive the shuttle bus to Atlanta, he or she will be fired.
“I don’t see well at night.” Chambers said. “But when he says you have to go, you have to go.”
Chambers also said drivers have not been given proper breaks during the workday, sometimes none at all.
On an 8-hour shift, a driver is supposed to get two 15-minute breaks and one 30-minute lunch break.
Blunt said there has been a lot of gossip among drivers about how the company they work for has allegedly mistreated them, but she said she chooses to ignore what she calls “sidewalk talk.”
“I really try to stay positive and not complain too much, but it’s hard.” Blunt said. “I like driving, and this is a good job for the most part, but it does get tough.”