Sunday, February 14, 2016

Drivers get back to busing after strike

By Sarina Trangle

Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union announced Feb. 15 that after the mid-winter public school recess, its roughly 8,800 drivers and matrons would end its 22-day strike and return to their buses on Wednesday, Feb. 20. 

That means that the 152,000 children who rely on bus service once again have a ride to school. 

Although Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott warned families that there may be service delays and disruptions as bus companies work out the logistics, Francis Bisono and other parents welcomed the news.

Ms. Bisono said it took weeks for her first-grade son, who is on the Autism spectrum, to adjust to walking to Multiple Intelligence School, PS/MS 37. 

She said her son stopped crying on his way to school about two weeks ago, but that walking in the cold has triggered his asthma.

“He may not be ready on Wednesday. He’s not sleeping well; he’s coughing in the middle of the night,” Ms. Bisono said. “But I still feel really happy.”

Local 1181 voted to break the strike a day after the five Democratic mayoral candidates sent a letter to the union pledging to advocate for Local 1181 if its members returned to work. The candidates vowed that, if elected, they would support the union in its fight to keep an employee protection provision in future bids. 

The employee protection provision guarantees that drivers and matrons are hired according to seniority regardless of which companies are awarded contracts. 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that including such a clause in bids opened this winter for 1,100 special education routes would have violated a court ruling and would force the city to continue spending $1.1 billion annually.

The union maintained that the clause would not have violated the law and had its members walk off the job on Jan. 16, insisting that the seniority provision was necessary to ensure that children were left in the care of experienced and capable staff.

On Feb. 12, dozens of companies bid on the 1,100 routes, which will be formally awarded this spring. 

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