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Queens Chronicle

City prepares for school bus strike

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Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013 3:46 pm | Updated: 5:01 pm, Mon Jan 14, 2013.

More than 150,000 students will need a ride Wednesday morning. Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, based in Ozone Park, called a strike on Monday over the city's plan to bid some bus routes. 

After warning of the potential strike for nearly a month, Mayor Bloomberg put together a contingency plan for the roughly 152,000 students who will be affected.

Starting Wednesday morning, the city will provide students with student MetroCards for its duration, and parents of students in second grade or younger will get an additional MetroCard to accompany their children to school. Parents who drive their children to school will get reimbursed at a rate of 55 cents per mile and those who take cabs to school will be reimbursed by filling out a form in the school. 

The union called strike over the city's decision to bid out more than 1,000 bus routes, the first in more than 30 years. Bloomberg decided to bid out the routes because the costs have gotten too expensive. 

"Last year, we bid out contracts for preschool bus routes, and the new contracts will save taxpayers $95 million over five years; that’s money we are putting back into classrooms, where it’s needed most," he said. 

The union wants the city to guarantee jobs for current employees in its bid process, but a 2011 ruling by a New York Court of Appeals judge says doing so would be illegal, despite the fact school bus drivers have had the protections in place since 1979. Bloomberg said the city's hands are tied because of the ruling, but the union argues that the city could fight the decision in court. 

Dan Gatto, president of Teamsters Local 854, which represents around 1,000 drivers, mechanics and matrons who work with the drivers of Local 1181 said his union stood in solidarity with the striking drivers, and placed the blame on Mayor Bloomberg.

"For weeks now, City Hall has refused to discuss the job-killing provisions they are insisting on as part of new contracts with bus contractors," Gallo said in a statement. "It’s almost as if City Hall wants this strike to happen for some perverse reason.

Gallo called on Bloomberg to meet directly with the union. 

"The best way to avoid a job action is for all sides to negotiate face to face, but City Hall would rather throw the entire system into disarray than sit at a table with the ATU," he said. "The workers deserve better, the parents deserve better and the children deserve better."

He added that Local 854 workers would not cross Local 1181's picket-lines. 

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