Negotiations stretched into the night Monday to avert a strike of school bus drivers who voted last week to walk off the job Nov. 1 unless their employer addresses rising health care costs and diminishing paid vacation time.
Approximately 900 bus drivers employed by Jofaz Transportation and Y&M Transit (owned by the same company), who service 600 school routes in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island said they will strike Tuesday if union officials and company management can’t reach a deal on a new contract by midnight.
“Starting wages for school bus attendants aren’t much higher than minimum wage,” Demos Demopoulos, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 553, said in a news release. “To increase the healthcare costs for these workers, many of whom are single mothers, is patently unfair.”
Although confident that the strike would be scuttled, the Department of Education and Mayor Bill de Blasio directed comprehensive contingency plans to get the 12,000 affected students to school. The company and the union representing the drivers both declined to comment for the story.
“While we remain hopeful that this will be resolved today, in the case that a strike does occur, we have comprehensive contingency plans in place," Department of Education spokesperson Devora Kaye told Metro in an email.
In case of the strike, the city will provide subway cards to students and families or reimburse parents for their travel or car fare.
School bus drivers had held a month-long strike in 2013 to demand job protections from the Michael Bloomberg administration, which they failed to achieve. That strike had affected more than 100,000 students, and because the administration did not have contingency and reimbursement plans, school attendance dropped sharply in some places.
Kaye acknowledged that the difficulties encountered during the previous strike helped determine the city's action this time.
"We’re committed to making sure all families have clear transportation options in case of any disruption," Kaye said.