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Bus strike

New York City school bus workers are on strike, the first walkout since 1979.

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Yellow school buses are once again winding their way through the city, ferrying students to school as drivers are back behind the wheel.

After a month out of work and on the picket lines in all kinds of bad weather, there were lots of smiles in the early morning darkness.

One driver at the Pioneer Bus Company yard on Zerega Avenue in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx told the PIX 11 Morning News ” I am happy to be back.  Happy for the kids.  The priority has always been the kids.”

Asked how she felt another employee told us “Feel good, strong, professional.”

For the first time in a month some 8000 bus drivers and aides or matrons hit the road again Wednesday morning, as the strike over job protections in future contracts was suspended. ” It beats being at home making no money.” said another driver.

On Tuesday, the schools chancellor, Dennis Walcott said parents should should expect things to run normally.

“Maybe the first day there will be a few hiccups like the first day of school but after the drivers settle in to their routes I expect they will do their usual good job.”

The union for drivers told us many of the bus companies called in mechanics Tuesday, while students were still on vacation, to get the buses ready to roll. After sitting idle for a month some had dead batteries and other minor problems.

As service resumes here’s what you need to know. Students assigned new routes during the strike will continue to be served by that route. The city says it saved 60 million dollars in transportation costs during the strike.

The school Department of Education is asking parents to return MetroCards they handed out to parents and students to their child’s school. They will expire Wednesday. In the meantime reimbursement for cabs, car service, and mileage must be submitted within 30 days.

The city says the end of the strike is a victory for parents students and the schools but the union says this isn’t over yet. They agreed to go back to work once they got an agreement from all of the major Democratic mayoral candidates to revisit the issue of job protections after the election when Mayor Bloomberg who refused to negotiate is out of office.

Over the next few days, you will hear a lot of discussion about who came out on top. Parents and students – tens of thousands of whom have been forced to find their own way to school…will easily argue, they are the winners in the union’s decision to end the strike.

The month-long strike was clearly a gamble for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, which left more than 100,000  students, including thousands with special need, to fend for themselves in getting to and from school.

Bus drivers and matrons walked off the job in an attempt to preserve seniority preference when it’s time for a bus company to fill its staff after successfully bidding for a city contract.

On a union member conference call held early Friday evening, union leaders lashed out at Mayor Bloomberg – and essentially told members they will live to fight again by revisiting this issue after Bloomberg leaves office next year.

The Bloomberg administration is characterizing the union’s decision to end the strike as a victory, saying in a written statement quote,”In the city’s entire history, the special interests have never had less power than they do today, and the end of this strike reflects the fact that when we say we put children first, we mean it.”

But the union isn’t walking away from this scuffle with the mayor’s office empty handed…or looking the other way.

Union leadership says members who crossed the picket line during this strike will be fined.
And several expected candidates for next year’s mayoral race signed a letter today – addressed to the union – that urged an end to the strike, and pledged their support down the road, if they’re elected mayor – to keep employee protections in future contracts.

The union is now putting its efforts into cultivating a new relationship with the city’s next mayor , hoping whoever is elected — presumably one of the candidates who signed that letter — will lead the charge to persuade state lawmakers in Albany to legislate employee seniority protection language into future contacts.

School buses rolled in this morning, but behind the wheel  were replacement drivers.

The group was greeted by angry strikers at Staten Island’s Atlantic Express bus depot.

The rank and file aren’t happy with the replacements.

They say  the drivers only went through  four hours of training,  which some believe is not enough.

Bus drivers walked off the job back on Jan. 16th. At issue, cutting costs versus cutting the jobs of drivers and matrons.

NEW YORK (PIX11) - Tensions reached the boiling point Tuesday morning as striking school bus drivers and their replacements went head to head on Staten Island.

Battle lines were drawn before dawn with strikers lined up behind barricades on both sides of the entrance to the Atlantic Express bus depot on Meredith Road. Strikers shouted “Scabs, scabs, scabs” at replacement workers as they entered the lot and drove out in yellow school buses.

The school bus strike began nearly 3 weeks ago but Tuesday for the first time some buses from the Staten Island depot ran with replacement drivers and matrons. The bus companies say replacements finished their training Tuesday.  The  union is not happy with them working their member’s jobs or the way the city has handled the strike.

Shop Steward Earnest Maino told PIX 11 News “They are putting unqualified people on these buses today to take these kids to school.”  he added  “Bottom line is they are not qualified.”  Maino went on to say, ” He put on these drivers just to get his buses rolling and these drivers will be personally responsible  for anything that happens to these kids on the buses.”

All of this comes a day after the union for  the drivers and representatives from the bus companies met at Gracie Mansion.  The only thing they agreed on was that the mayor needed to be a part of  the negotiations.

The union went on strike January 16th seeking to get employee protection provisions in any new contacts the city signs for bus routes.  The city is putting routes up for bid in an effort to save money and says the protections have been ruled illegal. The union disagrees.

The New York City school bus strike has entered its fourth day.

Bus drivers braved the cold temperatures to picket here in New York while the National Labor Relations Board is meeting in Washington, D.C. to decide whether or not the strike is legal.

A decision is not expected until sometime next week, so parents will have to keep making different arrangements to get their kids to school for possibly two more weeks.

The city’s last bus strike in 1979 lasted 14 weeks. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this one will not last until June.

NEW YORK (PIX11) – Day two of the New York City school bus strike arrived Thursday, with no end in sight. In Queens and across the five boroughs, striking workers were on the picket line.  All of this comes after a rough start of the strike for workers and parents alike.

More than 8,000 school bus drivers and attendants walked off the job Wednesday.  The strikers want job protections in any new contracts the city signs for bus service.

Asked what it would take to end the strike one worker told PIX 11 “For the mayor to give us our job security.  And we want the parents to know we care about the kids.”

The worker went on to say, “We want parents to speak out and let the mayor know he should give us what we want and help us out.”

The city is planning to put some bus routes up for bid to save money and the mayor says the protections the union for drivers wants have been ruled illegal by the courts.

Legal experts are split on who is right some say the mayor others say the courts have not ruled the protections are illegal in all cases.  All in all the city says the strike affects some 152,000 students out of 1.3 in the system and most made it to school Wednesday okay.

In the meantime strikers we talked to say they are prepared to stay on the picket line for as long as it takes to secure their demands.

Four hours of transporting a child to school each day instead of being able to go to work, or not having the ability to send a child to school at all, are among the situations the 150,000 New York City families whose children rely on school bus service are dealing with now that school bus drivers are on strike.

“Off to school,” chirped Roseanna Incantalupo as she tried to stay positive as she pushed her 17 year-old daughter in a wheelchair to the family’s minivan.  Incantalupo also has a 10 year-old daughter she had to take to school Wednesday morning.   Both girls usually take the school bus, but thanks to the strike, neither had school bus service, and their mom had to pick up the slack.

Disabled

Roseanna Incantalupo tried to stay positive as she pushed her 17 year-old daughter in a wheelchair from her family’s minivan.

“It all depends on traffic,” Incantalupo told PIX11 News.  “We’ll see what happens.”  She had to drive a 13-mile route across Staten Island in order to drop off both daughters.

At her 10 year-old’s school, I.S. 7, a mile-and-a-half from their home in Prince’s Bay, Staten Island, the administration had set up a row of at least a dozen teachers at the curb in front of the school.

“We’re doing a stop and drop, let’s go!” shouted an administrator, as teachers waved on car after car to drop off students quickly, and then leave.

Incantalupo wasted no time.  She got her 10 year-old daughter out of the minivan door in seconds.  That was the easy part.  The far bigger challenge was driving in a freezing rain storm the next 12 miles, from the southwestern tip of Staten Island to the northeast end, where her daughter’s school, the Hungerford School for students with special needs, is located.

The serpentine journey took an hour and two minutes one way, and it’s a trip Incantalupo is going to have do roundtrip twice daily.  That’s four hours of work she missed on Wednesday, and will miss every day until the strike is over.

“I’m not happy,” she told PIX11 News.  “Mayor Bloomberg, give the bus drivers and matrons what they want so we don’t have to spend all this time money and gas.  Please do the right thing.”

Mayor Bloomberg said, a strike "would not only be unfair, it would also be pointless."

Mayor Bloomberg said, a strike “would not only be unfair, it would also be pointless.”

Striking school bus drivers and matrons want their employee protection provision, or EPP, to be guaranteed in any future contract.  The EPP would require the city government and the school bus companies that contract with the city to recognize employees’ seniority and to continue to pay them at at least the rate they’re making now.

For most drivers and matrons, those wages are at least $14.00 per hour.  The mayor, in an attempt to lower the cost per student for transportation from $6900 to thousands of dollars less, is proposing signing new transportation contracts with school bus companies that would reduce starting wages to the $7.00 per hour range, according to the school bus drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181.

As for the families affected by the walkout, the city is reimbursing them 55 cents for each mile they have to travel to and from school, or is providing free Metrocards for students and parents to use.

In the case of Maryann Virga, the mother of a 16 year-old student who requires wheelchair transport to get to the Hungerford School, her hour-long commute will result in a reimbursement of about $11.00 per day.

She said that will not compensate for what it costs her to transport her son in the family’s specially equipped van.

“Look at this guzzler,” Virga siad, pointing to her vehicle.  “No, definitely not.”  She said that the four hours of work time she’s losing by transporting her son over a route that’s usually handled by professional drivers and aides is compromising her ability to perform all of her duties at her job.  She also recalled that the last school bus strike, in 1979, lasted 14 weeks.

“If [this strike is] three months, I’ll probably lose my job,” she said.  “Or have to quit my job.”

Nonetheless, she considers herself fortunate to have a van and to be able to provide transportation for her family.  On Wednesday, about 25 percent of all students in the public schools’ special needs district did not go to school.  That’s at least 10,000 families that simply did not have the means to get their children to school.

School bus strike

The bus union says members feel they have no choice but to strike to ensure their demands are met.

Also, at the Hungerford School, many special needs families come from other boroughs in order to have their children attend.  That means they’re having to pay $26 in tolls per day to drive to school.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott tried to show sympathy and support for the hard pressed families, at a City Hall news conference.

“A lot of our parents were able to surmount those difficult circumstances [today],” said Walcott.  They had to take multiple buses and subways to get to school, but thanks to them, our children were in school.”

Walcott told PIX11 News that he had met with advocacy groups to try and get increased Access-A-Ride service for special needs students who had poor access to public transportation or private vehicles, but could make no guarantees.

Meanwhile, picketers are on round-the-clock shifts at one of the largest school bus facilities in the city, the Amboy Bus Company, in Ridgewood, Queens.  The school bus drivers’ union, the bus company owners and the mayor have given no indication that they’ll sit down at a negotiating table any time soon.

And in a sign that a prolonged strike could become bitter, at four non-union school bus yards on Wednesday morning, picketers tried to prevent buses from going out on runs.  Police had to be called in.  They made no arrests.

 

You can only imagine how today’s bad weather is affecting the first day of the school bus strike.

James Ford followed a family all morning long as they drove between two boroughs.

NEW YORK (PIX11) – More than 8000 school bus drivers and attendants are officially on strike leaving parents to find alternative transportation for 152,00 students.

In the rain and sleet, drivers and attendants gathered outside the bus depot on Metropolitan Avenue in Queens to walk the picket line.  Marie Connolly was one of them.  We asked her why she showed up.

“To protect my job and my pension.  Thirty-eight years I’ve worked here.”  she went on to say,” I don’t want to lose my job and I don’t want to lose my pension.”

And union members say that is the issue.  The city is putting bus routes up for bid in an effort to save money that they say would ultimately go into the classroom.  But the union for bus drivers says their members deserve to be guaranteed job protection so that new contracts don’t end up being fulfilled by non union drivers.

Connolly says “There’s a lot of waste in the city.  They could handle this better.” she added ” We don’t want to see the kids have to go through this.”

The drivers say they see a scenario where they could end up working for about a third of the salary they currently receive.  Even though they work with the schools they don’t have the benefit packages city workers are accustomed to.

The city says legally they can’t offer the protections the union desires. And Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott says the strike should not be happening. ” I think it’s important to note this is a strike against our students by the union.” said Walcott.

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