Drivers at the picket line on the first day of the six-day school bus driver strike.
Drivers at the picket line on the first day of the six-day school bus driver strike. ULYSSES CURRY

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Seattle school bus drivers have approved a new contract, bringing an end to a six-day strike that halted bus service for about 12,000 public school students.

The drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 174, work for First Student, which contracts with the school district to provide yellow bus service. Drivers said they didn't qualify for or couldn't afford health insurance from the company for themselves and their families. Drivers rejected an initial contract offer from the company, saying the proposed insurance premiums and deductibles were too high. They began their strike on February 1.

The union and company announced the tentative agreement Friday and drivers voted to approve the deal Saturday, according to First Student.

First Student's lead negotiator, Kim Mingo, said in a statement: "We are very pleased that First Student yellow bus drivers have voted to ratify the expanded benefits program included in their contract. We look forward to resuming the reliable transportation that First Student is known for, and that Seattle Public Schools families depend on, on Monday."

During the strike, First Student offered drivers willing to cross the picket line eight hours of work, meals, and a daily per diem of $25 to $50. According to the company, about 70 of 400 drivers worked despite the strike. The company also texted drivers during the strike asking, "How much is the strike costing you?"

The union and company have not yet released the details of the health care benefits in the approved offer.

It is also not yet clear whether Seattle Public Schools intends to seek damages against First Student for the strike. A spokesperson for SPS did not return a request for comment on Friday.

UPDATE: In a statement, the Teamsters said 97 percent of drivers who voted supported the contract. According to the union, the deal provides "quality healthcare at an affordable cost" and a "Teamster pension plan."