Replacement Drivers Renew Some School Bus Routes
Updated: Updated 01/29/2013 12:27 PM
By: Natasha Ghoneim
Some replacement school bus drivers were behind the wheel Tuesday after a mediator the day before said parents may not see a quick resolution to the school bus strike, now in its third week.
About 116 replacement drivers and matrons crossed the picket line Tuesday morning at a depot on Staten Island.
Those drivers are transporting some of the students who haven't had bus service since drivers went on strike January 16.
Even with replacement drivers on the job, striking drivers say they're not backing down from their demands.
"I'm really upset. I'll be honest with you. And it's really annoying every time I see another bus pulling out of that yard," said one bus driver.
"It's very upsetting to see these buses roll today. We were hoping that these other drivers would be in solidarity with us," said another bus driver.
"I feel hurt. I mean, I feel that whoever steps over the line..I mean I understand everybody has bills. We all have bills but we have to take a stand. We don't make that much money," noted a third driver.
A bus company spokeswoman says one person refused to cross the picket line Tuesday and six called in sick and one opted to retire.
She says they will face disciplinary action.
Two drivers were assigned to each bus, one to actually get behind the wheel, the other to fill-in for striking matrons. The Department of Education issued an emergency waiver to make that move possible.
The fill-ins have been certified in CPR, a requirement for the position, but the union says there's more to being a matron than that.
"Matrons are trained to address special needs children. Their first aid needs, their emotional needs, trained to identify how kids are in trauma and their issues while riding the bus," said Strike Coordinator John Scutto.
Bus companies say they have hired several hundred replacements but note it could take months before they're fully trained and ready to get on board a bus.
On Monday, retired judge Milton Mollen -- who settled the 12-week bus strike in 1979 -- met with the bus companies and the drivers union.
He said this strike may last even longer than the last one.
Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 walked off the job after the city put bus contracts out to bid without protections for veteran drivers.
The city says it cannot legally offer those protections.
Before the replacement drivers were called in, the strike had been affecting roughly 150,000 students.
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