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Union Leader, Schools Chancellor Still At Odds Over Yellow Bus Contracts

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TWC News: Union Leader, Schools Chancellor Still At Odds Over Yellow Bus Contracts
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A bus union president said Monday that he began labor talks with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and said in case of a bus drivers' strike, the union would inform the families of more than 150,000 city public school students who rely on yellow buses, so that they could arrange alternate transportation.

In his Monday statement, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello did not indicate when a potential strike would start.

The city is in the process of bidding out new school bus contracts.

The union wants the city to guarantee their drivers would keep their jobs under the new contracts, but city officials said it is illegal to include that job protection in a new contract.

"The union has said well maybe on Monday, maybe Wednesday, maybe we'll do it, maybe we won't do it. They're jerking our kids around. We can't allow that to happen. I'm not going to allow that to happen," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

Walcott said when the city put the pre-K bus contracts up for bid, the city saved $95 million over five years.

The union, however, is worried bus companies who get the contracts might hire lower paid or non-union drivers, leaving some of its drivers and attendants without a job.

"A strike is the last card we want to play. But if we are given no other alternative or no other option, we will do what we need to do to protect the children of the city of New York and the work force of the school bus driver industry," said Local 1181 representative Michael Cordiello.

"We just need security, job security. We are not asking for anything else. Just to keep our jobs that's it," said bus attendant Grace Mancini.

If there is a strike, Department of Education officials have said that students can get a MetroCard from their school's general office.

Parents of children in kindergarten through second grade and individualized education programs will also get MetroCards.

The DOE has alerted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prepare for increased subway ridership.

Also, parents who live too far from public transportation will be reimbursed if they choose to drive their children, at a rate of 55 cents a mile.

Walcott says regardless of who gets the new contract, it still requires all bus drivers to be certified and complete the mandatory trainings.

The current contract for drivers and matrons ends in June.

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