New York City school bus drivers have walked off the job and thousands of parents are scrambling to find alternate transportation.
The drivers made their final pickup Tuesday afternoon. Students got their last ride home before the drivers take to the picket lines today.
The kids seemed oblivious, but their parents were making plans.
And there is no idea how long the strike could last. The uncertainty and inconvenience is most profound on special needs children, who may have no good alternative to the school bus.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told WCBS 880 that Local 1181 was “taking an action against our students,” which he said would “hurt our students in the long run.”
“They’re asking us to do something that’s illegal and we’re doing the responsible thing,” Walcott said.
Union President Michael Cordiello said Monday night that it was up to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reinsert something called an “employee protection provision” back into its bus contracts, which the city is putting out for bids.
Essentially, that would mean keeping higher-paid, experienced drivers before hiring anyone new. That, however, is something the city steadfastly said was illegal.
“What the union wants us to do is to include something called an ‘employee protection provision,’ which was ruled illegal by the New York State Court of Appeals – the highest court in New York State,” Walcott said.
However, the union said the city is misinterpreting the court’s ruling.
“They’re saying it’s illegal for the pre-K bid, which it is, but for the K-12 bid it is not illegal,” Thomas Fret, of ATU 1181, told CBS 2′s Sean Hennessey.
So why is the city insisting the provision is illegal?
“We have no idea,” said Fret.
Bus drivers with seniority said without protection, they’re too expensive to hire.
“We all going to lose – the top driver. We all going to lose,” said driver Joseph Barthomolew.
“We have kids, too. We have mortgages, too,” Hector White added.
One 20-year veteran driver said he was worried about his financial future.
“Very important,” he said. “If they hire non-union workers, who’s going to pay for the benefits for the retirees that are going to retire; the pension plan and all that? What do we do?”
Stuck in the middle are the children and parents.
The union said the city isn’t negotiating and never offered any solutions to avoiding a work stoppage.
Read more at WCBS 880