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Bus Drivers Assure Parents: No Strike During the Holidays

By Jill Colvin | December 6, 2011 8:21pm
Bus driver Tony Livia said that money shouldn't be an issue when it comes to kids' safety.
Bus driver Tony Livia said that money shouldn't be an issue when it comes to kids' safety.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

CITY HALL — The union representing the city's bus drivers says it will not strike — at least not during the holidays.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned parents in November that the city was bracing for "the strong possibility of an immediate system-wide" school bus strike at the hands of drivers, who are angry over the possibility of a new contract with no job guarantees.

But Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union tried to reassure parents Tuesday that, while they’re still fuming, a work stoppage is not in the cards — at least until the new year.

“There’s no impending strike at the moment," Michael Cordiello, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, told reporters at a press conference at City Hall, where he and other union leaders slammed the Bloomberg administration for creating “unnecessary fear" among parents by warning of the strike.

They also continued to accuse the mayor of turning his back on union workers and putting children in jeopardy by issuing a request for proposals for new bus providers for special needs kindergarten and pre-k kids that do not include job guarantees for current workers.

The current contract expires this June.

Union drivers warned that the new contract could open the doors to bus providers that hire inexperienced drivers and pay low, flat rates.

“New York City parents put their children's lives in the hands, every single morning, of our drivers, escorts and mechanics. It goes without saying that we better be the best at what we do," Cordiello said.

DOE officials, however, said that the city tried to include jobs guarantees last time it began negotiating a contract with the union, in 2008, but were stopped by a judge who ruled in June 2011 that such guarantees were prohibited because they hindered competition.

DOE officials also insisted that hiring a new provider would have no impact on bus driver standards or regulations, since those must be followed by all drivers, union and not.

But union members disagreed.

"We're not delivering packages. We're delivering kids," said Tony Livia, 66, a bus driver for 16 years who stressed the merits of experience and good pay.

The members did not rule out the possibility of a strike after the holidays.  A union spokesman declined to comment on whether the timing was related to Christmas bonus pay.