NEW YORK—The city’s school bus drivers are going on strike at 6 a.m. this Wednesday, leaving the families of more than 150,000 children with one day to figure out a different way to get to school.
“It’s going to be a hardship in general because we are going to have to get our kids to school and from school, and field trips and whatever is going on,” said Johnnie Stevens, a Chelsea resident, whose son, Kwame, 10, is one of the children affected by the strike.
“This is not a decision that we arrived at lightly, but an action we must take,” said Michael Cordiello, president of Amalgamated Transportation Union’s (ATU) Local 1181, which represents 8,800 of the city’s school bus drivers and matrons, at a press conference late Monday afternoon.
Cordiello said that only a significant proposal from the mayor could delay the Wednesday strike.
The strike is a culmination of a standoff between the union and the mayor’s office that started when the city issued a set of bids for school bus contracts in December. The bids did not include a provision that protects the jobs of drivers with seniority when a bus company loses its contract with the city. If the provision were in place, the company that won the bid would have to hire additional drivers based on seniority.
The provision is referred to as the Employee Protection Provision (EPP), and was the subject of a prior dispute between the unions and the city in 2011. It was also the reason for the city’s last bus strike in 1979.
“In a year when our students already missed a week or more of school because of hurricane Sandy, we certainly don’t need to make it more difficult to get to school,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a press conference hours prior to the announcement from the ATU.
The mayor made the case that it would be illegal for the city to include the EPP in the bids because of a ruling made by a head judge at the Court of Appeals on a different set of bids, which found the provision to be illegal.
However, both Cordiello and Richard N. Gilberg, the legal counsel for Local 1181, argued that the court ruling cannot be interpreted to have systemwide application.
Bloomberg outlined a set of measures the city will take in case of a strike.
- Temporary MetroCards will be issued to students at their schools, which will be effective as long as the strike continues
-- Additional MetroCards will be issued for parents with students in grades K-two.
-- Parents with children in grades K-six will be reimbursed for gas at 55 cents per mile or for car service costs.
Tardiness of up to two hours due to transportation will be excused.
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