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Queens Chronicle

32 Council members back bus driver EPP law

Cite student safety, worker experience

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Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:08 am, Thu Jun 26, 2014.

Thirty-two members of the City Council have signed a letter to Gov. Cuomo and state legislators urging them to pass bills that would mandate employment protection provisions for experienced bus drivers and matrons as part of all future school bus contracts. The session ends this week.

The city removed EPPs from contracts following a 2011 ruling from the New York State Court of Appeals which found EPPs to be illegal. The case was brought by bus company owners.

Drivers and matrons subsequently went on a one-month strike in January 2013, but failed to move former Mayor Mike Bloomberg to change course.

Mayor de Blasio and numerous council-members promised to fight to restore EPPs during their campaigns last year.

Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), chairman of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, said EPPs are a benefit for the workforce and vital to the safety of students.

“Our city must prioritize the safe transportation of our school children,” Miller said in a statement issued by his office last week. Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito (D-Manhattan) said in a statement that she and the other signers of the letter “believe New York City’s school children need experienced, safe bus drivers on city streets.”

Mark-Viverito’s response did not address questions put to her about the possibility of bus companies going to court again should EPPs be codified in law, a suit which could potentially result in the same ban in effect for preschool contracts, thus leaving the Council and bus drivers’ unions little or no room to negotiate. Miller, a former union president, said he always wants to see both sides negotiating.

“However, the companies who have historically provided quality and professional care did so with the EPP in place and remain willing to do so,” Miller said.

He said he has spoken with bus companies fearful of reprisal from the Department of Education if they speak up.

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