NEW YORK—School bus drivers are still on strike, but a meeting scheduled for Monday at the mayor’s Gracie Mansion may provide a breakthrough in stalled negotiations.
Drivers are employed by companies that contract with the city, so city officials have maintained they will not negotiate directly with the drivers.
The issues must be settled between the companies and union, according to mayoral spokesperson Lauren Passalacqua in an email. She said city representatives will not attend the meeting.
Passalacqua said Mayor Michael Bloomberg has met with Michael Cordiello and arranged the meeting on Monday, but is merely a facilitator.
Michael Cordiello, the president of the school bus drivers union, said in a statement released Friday that the mayor and the city are involved and should be at the negotiating table.
“We accepted the mayor’s offer and stand ready to meet immediately and continuously in an attempt to end this strike,” he said. “But it takes all parties to negotiate a deal.”
Having all three parties in the room is the only way the strike will end, Cordiello said. Passalacqua emphasized in a return email that the city doesn’t have a role in the negotiations.
Cordiello said bus company owners told the union they will not meet on Monday.
Since the strike started on Jan. 14, more than 150,000 students have had to switch transportation methods to school. The city has provided reimbursement for some taxi rides. They also gave out MetroCards, but some were not activated at the outset.
School bus drivers are worried about pay cuts stemming from what they say are unfair changes to labor contracts.
City officials counter that the changes will put an end to a process that typically gives contracts to the same companies, and that the new process already works for the separate system of pre-K busing.
In a letter from bus company Pioneer Transportation to its employees, President Neil Strahl told them he’s already begun replacing them, certifying new applicants, according to Schoolbook.
“The last thing I want to do is permanently replace you,” he wrote. “This agreement can be negotiated while you are back at work collecting a paycheck and enjoying benefits such as health insurance (benefits that will cease shortly if the strike is not resolved) or while picketing. The choice is yours.”
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