Month-long bus driver strike comes to an end
by Andrew Shilling
Feb 20, 2013 | 1412 views | 0 0 comments | 846 846 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Following Presidents’ Day weekend, over 8,000 school bus drivers went back to work, meaning 152,000 of the city’s students will no longer take cabs or mass transit to class and the first bus strike in NYC since 1979 will officially come to an end.

It has been a little over one month since the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1181 began their strike on Jan. 16, and though their fight for job security and safeguarded benefits has not reached an end, they did agree to head back to work on Wednesday.

Michael Cordiello, president of ATU Local 1181, said the drivers will continue to push for an Employee Protection Provision (EPP), however they will do it after the succession of the current mayoral administration.

“Though our strike has been suspended, the principles that we fight for remain pressing issues that the city will have to address,” Cordiello said in the statement. “A safe workforce is an experienced workforce, and the Employee Protection Provisions currently included in the city’s busing contracts protect our most experience drivers, matrons and mechanics, and have created one of the safest workforces in the entire country.”

Mayoral hopefuls, including Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Jiu, formerComptroller Bill Thompson and former councilman Sal Albanese, urged the union to end the strike, promising their demands will be revisited following the current administration.

They wrote; “We continue to stand with you in your battle for security and decent wages. At this time, however, with an intransigent administration…we call upon you and your members to return to their jobs and continue the battle in other ways.We know this is not an easy decision. But we pledge, if elected, to revisit the school bus transportation system and contracts.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been in a standoff with the striking drivers since it began just over four weeks ago, and is now happy to see drivers have decided to go back to work.

“Yesterday, I urged the union leaders to end the strike and made clear that the city would not be held hostage. Tonight they agreed and will restore bus services on Wednesday when schools reopen,” Bloomberg said in a statement last Friday, claiming a personal victory over the deadlock. “I want to thank the families, teachers, schools and Department of Education staff who faced a challenging four weeks, as well as the bus employees who helped keep some of the routes operational throughout the strike.”

As the strike has come to an end, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced the city has accepted bids for the first time in 30 years, and is now hopeful to provide some much needed financial relief to the system.

The current school busing system costs $1.1 billion annually, versus roughly $100 million in 1979 when the last strike took place.

“This open, fair and competitive process is what our school system and city deserve and sets an important standard that we will continue to uphold,” Walcott said in a statement.

He agreed that it was time unions went back to work, standing behind his initial claims that the strike was misaimed at the city.

“I want to extend my thanks to the parents and families, the school staff and my team at the Department of Education who worked to get our children to class, and especially to the bus drivers and matrons who helped keep some of the bus routes in service,” he said.

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