The wheels on the bus won’t go ‘round.
The school bus workers’ union announced that a citywide strike will begin today – a brutal work stoppage that will send families of 152,000 yellow bus-riding kids scrambling for new travel options.
Officials of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union said at a midtown press conference that the strike was about making sure that the city doesn’t lay off experienced workers every time contracts for bus companies come up for bid.
The union, which represents 9,000 drivers, matrons and mechanics, has threatened a strike since mid-December, when the city put out bids for new busing contracts that lack the decades-old job protections.
The union insists the protections are vital because the Department of Education cuts hundreds of routes annually in an attempt to save money – but then eventually ends up reinstating the bulk of them.
The protections ensure that someone who loses their job when a route is cut is also hired back – in order of seniority – when it’s restored.
“We don’t want to go on strike – a strike doesn’t help anybody,” one Queens driver told The Post. “But we don’t have a choice, because if we don’t strike on this issue, we don’t have a job.”
City officials said a 2011 court ruling struck down those protections – known as Employee Protection Provisions – as illegal, so that the city can’t include them in new bids for yellow bus routes.
Speaking before the confirmation of the strike, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said a walk-out by the union would be irresponsible, costly and damaging to the education of students.
“If there is a strike, it’s a strike against our students,” he said at a City Hall appearance. “And this will have a devastating impact on our students
The December bids at the heart of the dispute, which account for roughly one-sixth of the city’s 6,900 school bus routes, would replace current contracts with bus companies that are set to expire this summer.
DOE officials say the job protections force companies that win new contracts to hire workers based on seniority from companies that lose routes – making it virtually impossible for the city to ever cut its costs.
The city pays $1.1 billion per year to transport students in kindergarten through eighth grade to school.
Officials have announced contingency plans that include handing out MetroCards to students, and to parents of the youngest kids.
Where public transit isn’t an option, private drivers and taxi or car services would be reimbursed.
The city tried to remove the employee protections from its yellow bus contracts in 1979 – which led to a paralyzing, three-month strike by school bus workers.
Source: THE NEW YORK POST