As the city prepares for a potential strike by school bus drivers, lawmakers, parents and drivers themselves are slamming a plan to remove a seniority provision from contracts.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said City Hall cannot protect the jobs of certain drivers as it seeks bids from companies, including on routes that deal with special education students.
The mayor warned parents to prepare for the possibility of a strike after winter break.
Protesters said the seniority clause, known as the employee protection provision, has been around for more than three decades, and they argued it's needed because it makes sure the most qualified and experienced drivers are on the job.
"The administration needs to pull back this outrageous notion of stripping away employee protection provisions," said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
"It shouldn't be about saving money," said mayoral candidate William Thompson. "This should be about the maximum safety and protection for our children."
"If you look at the contracts that we're talking about here, it's not just for any children," said City Comptroller John Liu. "It's specifically for special education children who have vastly greater needs, and therefore need drivers who understand the situation that they're in the position of managing."
The mayor has argued the provision is illegal, but union officials disagree.
As for the possibility of a strike, the union said it is weighing its options.