Union, mayor continue to square off over school bus bids as strike lingers on
The city's school bus strike shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon, with the mayor and the drivers union entrenched in their respective stands on job security.
As more than 8,000 drivers picketed at bus depots throughout the city Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he still wouldn't put employee protection provision in the bids for 1,000 new school bus contracts.
The mayor said he hoped that the strike wouldn't last 14 weeks, like the last one did in 1979, and urged Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union to accept the court ruling that deemed EEP illegal.
"This strike is about guarantees that the union can't have," Bloomberg said.
The union has contended that the protection will keep experienced drivers behind the wheel. The protection requires companies that win the bids to hire workers from the losing companies based on experience. The court ruling only covered pre-K drivers, according to the union.
"This isn't for money, it's for job security," Sal Aglialoro, 66, a bus driver for 20 years said while picketing outside a Ridgewood bus depot. "I've been on the job 20 years. Am I just supposed to walk away with nothing?"
The strike didn't seem to deter parents and students from getting school. They received student MetroCards and reimbursement for car mileage, and overall attendance was down less than 1%, according to schools chancellor Dennis Walcott.
Attendance at schools in citywide District 75, which teaches special needs students, however, was down 25%, the chancellor said.
The union began running TV ads depicting images of crashed school buses and warning viewers that the bids, which represent a sixth of the total bus contracts, would create safety issues.
"Would you let your child get on this bus?" a voice-over asks in the ad.
Bloomberg dismissed those concerns and noted that the city is dealing with the bus companies, not the union directly.
"We don't set salaries and benefits, the companies do," he said.
He reiterated that the city would move on with the bids because it needs to find a way to shave the $1.1 billion annual cost for school buses and get money back in the classrooms.
"The city's best interest is to get the best service at the lowest possible price," he said.