Parents across New York City are scrambling for a second day to figure out alternatives so tens of thousands of students can get to school as a standoff between striking school bus drivers and matrons and the city continues.
Michael Cordiello of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union said the drivers will strike until Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city agree to put a job security clause back into their contract.
But Bloomberg said the strike “is about job guarantees that the union just can’t have.”
The city has put its contracts with private bus companies up for bid, aiming to cut costs. Local 1181 says drivers could suddenly lose their jobs when contracts expire in June.
Bloomberg has said the city must seek competitive bids to save money.
The union sought job protections for current drivers in the new contracts. The city said that the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has barred it from including such provisions because of competitive bidding laws; the union said that’s not so.
The dispute pits two seemingly irreconcilable imperatives against each other: city budget constraints and union members’ desire to keep their jobs. Absent an injunction, the strike could last a long time, observers on both sides of the issue said.
Parents and kids meanwhile are caught in the middle. Many have been forced to walk, take the subway or hop in a taxi to get to class.
To sway public opinion, the union has launched TV ads warning parents about new school drivers who could be hired if the city doesn’t meet their demands.
The city said that on Wednesday, 113,200 students out of 152,000 who take a school bus weren’t able to do so. The rest had bus routes that were running.
Those who rely on the buses include 54,000 special education students and others who live far from schools or transportation. They also include students who attend specialized school programs outside of their neighborhoods.
The city is distributing MetroCards to students who could take buses and subways to school. It also plans to reimburse parents who drive or take taxis.
The city’s last school bus strike, in 1979, lasted 14 weeks.
Read a full report at WCBS NY.