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Philadelphia School District bus drivers and other workers reach tentative contract agreement, union says

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By Laura Ly, CNN

(CNN) - A union representing about 2,000 Philadelphia School District employees said Friday it has averted a strike by reaching a tentative contract agreement just three days before the start of the school year.

In a news release, local 32BJ SEIU officials said the new deal achieves "historic" wage increases, millions of dollars in funding for additional standardized training programs, protects sick leave and paid vacation and maintains pension and employer-paid health benefits.

The deal must still be ratified by union membership, whose current contract is set to expire in five days.

Union Vice President Gabe Morgan said the new deal "honors the enormous contributions and sacrifices that 32BJ school workers have made, including risking their lives throughout the pandemic."

"32BJ members are proud to show up to work every day and that includes the upcoming school days. I want to thank Mayor (Jim) Kenney and all of the elected officials for their support and for bringing us together, without which we wouldn't have reached an agreement," Morgan said in a statement.

Philadelphia is set to begin its 2022-2023 school year Monday, according to the school district's calendar.

The employees covered under the contract are primarily bus drivers, bus attendants, bus mechanics, building cleaners, building engineers and trades workers.

Chief Talent Officer Larisa Shambaugh said district officials were excited about the agreement, adding that it reflects the deep respect and value they have for the workers.

"We see the amazing work they do everyday," she said in a statement posted to social media. "We all look forward to starting the new school year with the certainty we will do so without interruption to in-person learning for our students and families."

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