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School Bus Driver Strike May Come After Holidays, Mayor Warns

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TWC News: School Bus Driver Strike May Come After Holidays, Mayor Warns
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg is warning parents that school bus drivers may go on strike early next year for the very same reason the union threatened to strike last year. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

As if shutting down the city's schools for a week after Hurricane Sandy wasn't disruptive enough now the city's school bus drivers are threatening to go on strike after the holiday break ends in January.

Mayor Bloomberg announced the possibility of a strike Friday at City Hall. He says he wanted to give parents plenty of time to plan for it over the holiday break.

City Hall says the union is balking because the Department of Education is refusing to protect the jobs of senior bus drivers as it seeks bids from companies to run some of the city's bus routes.

The mayor said the city is legally barred from including those job protections in its bus contracts.

"We are not legally permitted to do what they are asking, which would make a strike not only irresponsible, but totally pointless," Bloomberg said.

There are more than 152,000 students who take the yellow buses to school. The mayor said that they are sending a letter home with students Friday explaining that in the event of a strike, students who depend on the school buses will be able to get a temporary MetroCard that will cover their transportation costs during the strike.

Parents with children in kindergarten through second grade will also be able to get a free temporary MetroCard to transport the young students to school.

It would be the first time since 1979 that school bus drivers went on strike citywide.

NY1 has reached out to the union for comment.

Meanwhile, the mayor is also clashing with another education union, the United Federation of Teachers, over stalled negotiations for a teacher evaluation system. $250 million is on the line for the city.

"Also, part of this evaluation deal is also to deal with improving our teachers. We want our teachers to be highly effective. Unfortunately, as a result of the UFT walking away they are putting children at risk and also not helping their teachers as well," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew says the talks have not broken down. He says a deal can be reached.

"That requires both parties to be at the table," Mulgrew said. "And we have told the Department of Ed and the city administration, these are the things we need to discuss at this point. And that is part of a negotiation. We are waiting at this point."

The schools chancellor previously said he wanted a deal in place by Friday, though the real deadline for when the state needs to have signed off on the deal for the city to get the money is January 17.

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