NEW YORK (PIX11) – Parents of some 152,000 school kids were left scrambling Wednesday morning, to find alternative means of transportation after 8,000 union bus drivers hit the picket line in their first strike in 34 years.
The union says the issue is not money, but job security. In an effort to cut the annual $1.1 billion transportation costs for school children, the city has put out contract bids to 1,100 private bus companies. They do not provide Employment Protection Provisions, better known as EPPs, that provide job security. Drivers fear losing their jobs if low bidders win contracts and provide less experienced drivers. The city claims the courts have mandated that the job security provisions cannot be included in the contract bidding process.
The union claims Mayor Bloomberg has the power to reach an agreement. Bloomberg blames the union for an ill-advised walkout, “a strike against the school children of New York.” No new negotiations are scheduled. The last time private school bus drivers staged a strike in 1979, they stayed out for three months.
The bus companies have hired non-union replacement drivers who are undergoing training and it was unclear when they would be on the job.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott says the city has made contingency plans that include the issuance of free MetroCards to students, and reimbursement of transportation costs to families with special needs children.
Kindergarten children are familiar with the refrain, “The wheels on the bus go round and round.” But for now those buses remain parked as their drivers go round and round on the picket line.