Bus Strike Threat Still Looms Over NYC Schools

NEW YORK (AP/Hamodia) -

A continuing dispute over job protections for New York City school bus drivers means the threat of strike that would disrupt transportation for about 152,000 students is still looming.

Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union hasn’t said officially if there is going to be a strike. But Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on Sunday announced measures the city would take if a strike does happen. The last school bus strike, in 1979, went on for 14 weeks.

Chancellor Walcott says more transit officers and crossing guards would be in place to help children get to school using mass transportation. The city says Metrocards will be available for students, and those in grades K-2 will receive two Metrocards, one for an accompanying adult.

Mayor Bloomberg said in his weekly broadcast, “Parents of children in grades K-6 who get yellow bus service and for whom public transportation to school is not an option can get reimbursed for transportation costs. If they decide to drive their children to school, they’ll be reimbursed at a rate of 55 cents per mile. If they use a taxi or car service, they’ll be reimbursed after completing a form available in their schools.

“Students who arrive at school late because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be excused for up to two hours. Children who are unable to attend school because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be marked absent with an explanation code that will ensure their attendance record is not negatively affected. And afterschool programs will remain open, but no school busing will be provided.“

Rabbi Moshe Ausfresser, Jewish liaison for the Office of Pupil Transportation, an effective advocate for pupil busing over the years, likened the potential strike situation to Sundays, when parents make their own transportation arrangements.

“My office is very sensitive to try to do the best under the circumstances that the union has put us in,” he told Hamodia. “There are options; every yeshivah has already received MetroCards, and the option of taking car service or parents driving [and being reimbursed] is there. I think that’s a tremendous improvement [over the last school bus strike].”

The city wants to cut transportation costs and has put bus contracts up for bid. The union is criticizing the lack of employee protections in those bids.