New York City's public school bus drivers will go on strike beginning Wednesday, the union announced Monday afternoon.
Some 8,000 bus drivers and matrons of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union have been threatening to strike for weeks over the issue of job protection.
The strike will require the parents of 111,000 of the city's 1.1 million public school students and 41,000 parochial school students to find a new way to get their children to school, according to the New York Times.
The city will provide temporary MetroCards for students currently taking the bus, as well as for parents of kids in grades K-2. If public transportation is not an option, parents of elementary school children can get reimbursed for travel costs. See the DOE's full set of rules here.
One benefit: kids who come up to two hours late due to travel issues will be excused.
The crux of the dispute is job protection. In December, the city invited private companies to bid to take over the 1,100 routes that serve students with disabilities, about a sixth of the total. There is currently no protection for drivers on those routes, who fear they will be unemployed once the new contracts take effect in June, the Times reports.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the new contracts will save the city $95 million over five years and that requiring private contractors to hire the current drivers is barred by a 2011 ruling that said it would violate the city's competitive bidding laws. The union said the 2011 ruling was flawed and claims that the mayor's office hasn't put adequate time into negotiations, only spending a total of 1 hour and 20 minutes in talks, according to the ABC News.
In a statement following the announcement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the union's decision "regrettable."
"The union’s decision to strike has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with job protections that the City legally cannot include in its bus contracts," he said, adding that he hopes the union will reconsider.
The union counters that the decision to strike is indded about children’s safety because the strike is aimed at preserving the jobs of the city's experienced drivers, according to the Times.
“It’s a protection that’s in there to provide the best quality driver and matron in the City of New York,” Michael Cordiello, the president of Local 1181, told the Times.
The last time the city's school bus drivers and matrons (a second staffer who accompanies kids on the bus) held a strike was in 1979, when the walked off the job for 13 weeks, according to the Times.