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City Moves Forward With Review Of School Bus Bids

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There are still no negotiations to try to end the school bus strike, but the city is moving forward with the controversial contracts at the heart of the disagreement. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

For four weeks, thousands of school bus drivers and chaperones have been on strike to stop the city from signing new bus contracts without seniority protections.

But on Tuesday, the city moved one step closer to doing just that. Officials publicly read bids from 65 different school bus companies, competing for the very work that the strikers had hoped to prevent.

"We had a competitive process for the first time in 33 years, so that's what we've been striving for," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The contracts represent more than 1,100 of the city's 7,700 school bus routes. It was divided into 32 jobs, based on the type of school buses needed and the geographic area.

Some of the 65 companies bid on every job. Others bid on just one or two.

It's required that the city reads every offer out loud, as David Ross of the Department of Education explained, "so that everyone hears at the same time what the different companies have bid."

It took more than six hours Tuesday.

More than 100 strikers showed up to protest.

"We're hoping that they consider and that they stop the bid so we don't lose our jobs," said one striking worker.

"We don't want a raise. We don't want a penny," said another. "All we want is job protection. That's why we're here. That's why we're striking."

It's too early to tell if, or how much, money the city may save by putting the contracts out to bid. The offers varied widely, and officials now need to check that the companies can deliver what they've promised and conduct background checks, including possible ties to organized crime, which has tainted the school bus industry in the past.

"We'll be doing our due diligence in taking a look at the various types of qualifications for these companies," Walcott said.

The contracts were supposed to start in September, but after the strike began, the city moved the potential start date forward. Officials said they're willing to work with companies that can get buses rolling with drivers and chaperones who are not on strike as soon as possible.

Walcott said that he hopes the union will decide to end the strike soon, because even with most drivers on the picket line, the city is determined to move forward with the new bus contracts.

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