A possible union strike by yellow school bus drivers may soon leave more than 150,000 students throughout the city, including in Queens, scrambling to find other ways to get to class, Mayor Bloomberg and other city leaders said on Friday.
Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which is based in Ozone Park, has threatened an “immediate system-wide” strike because of a disagreement over the city’s recently issued bid to secure new yellow bus contracts to transport special education pre-kindergarten pupils for the 2012-13 school year, Bloomberg said.
The Queens Chronicle reached out to Local 1181 for comment, and a spokeswoman said the group would email a response, but did not immediately do so.
The union has told the city that if the bid did not include an employee protection provision — essentially a measure that would guarantee jobs for current drivers — it would strike, according to the mayor.
“The law mandates that we seek bids from bus companies in a competitive fashion; it prohibits us from doing what the union wants,” Bloomberg said at a press conference at City Hall on Friday. “So the union is threatening an illegal strike that would harm the education of more than 152,000 students if it doesn’t get its way, and that’s just outrageous.”
In a letter schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott sent to parents on Friday, he assured them the city is planning transportation alternatives for students. The city will issue MetroCards for all students who currently receive yellow bus service.
Parents of students with an Individualized Education Program requiring transportation from their home directly to school, as well as parents of children in kingergarten through second grade, may request a MetroCard for a parent or guardian to act as the child’s escort to class, according to Walcott’s lettter.
Additionally, for children who have an IEP requiring transportation, the city will offer reimbursement for transportation costs. Parents who drive their children to school will be reimbursed at a rate of 51 cents per mile, and individuals who use a taxi or car service to transport their child will also be reimbursed, Walcott said.
“This is a very difficult situation for the school system, and we understand that it may be very upsetting to our students and families,” Walcott wrote in the letter.