Tag Archives: Employee Protection Provision

Parents relieved school buses are up and running again


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

The wheels on the bus will finally be going round and round again.

School bus drivers and matrons returned to their posts on Wednesday, February 19, after the month-long stalemate that left more than 150,000 students stranded.

“I am very pleased and happy that the strike is over,” said Far Rockaway resident Crystal Blount, whose disabled son Nehemiah needed to be driven over an hour to his school on Long Island every day. “It was causing major stress. I had to take too many days off from work and lost a lot of time at work that I would normally use for emergencies.”

A major push to end the strike came when the five Democratic mayoral hopefuls signed a joint letter, urging the city and the union to come to an agreement.

According to bus driver Maria Gentile, the decision to end the strike had nothing to do with negotiations with Bloomberg, contrary to statements made by the mayor. Instead, it was the five candidate’s support and promise that the Employee Protection Provision (EPP) would be revisited upon the appointment of Bloomberg’s successor.

“They asked if we would return to work in exchange for the upcoming mayor to be willing to work with them,” said Gentile. “We’re in a really good place. We’re in a positive place. We’re going to keep moving forward and fighting for what we want.”

Local 1181 president Michael Cordiello said that while the strike has been suspended, the issues surrounding the strike remain pressing and a responsibility of the city. Cordiello criticized the Bloomberg administration for its tactics during the strike, including the mayor’s refusal to meet with Local 1181 officials to end the strike.

“In January when Mayor Bloomberg is gone, we are comfortable that his entire scheme will be rejected,” said Cordiello. “We are grateful that so many elected leaders in this city are choosing the facts as a path to a conclusion, rather than a conclusion as a path to the facts.”

As routines resumed, parents rejoiced.

“We had to adjust our work schedule to drop her off every day to and from school,” said Kristen Kim, whose daughter attends Mill Neck Manor School in Long Island, a specialized school for children who are hard of hearing. “Thank goodness it’s over for now. The next mayor will have to revisit and hopefully solve this issue.”

 

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Striking school bus drivers stand by their demands


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER / Photo by Alexa Altman

Maria Gentile has driven a school bus for more than 34 years. She knows the name of every student she carries along her route, through Bayside, Douglaston and Oakland Gardens. She’s witnessed the first and last days of school for countless families. When she drops a child off at home, she doesn’t drive away until they’ve made it safely inside.

“Safety is first with the children,” said Gentile, who gathered with dozens of other striking drivers outside a bus depot in Jamaica. Two weeks into the citywide school bus strike, drivers remain firmly behind their demands, calling specifically for job security.

“We just want to keep our jobs. That’s it,” said bus driver Jessica Saltos of Queens Village. “We’re not looking for a raise, healthcare, a pension, nothing at all. We want to keep working. That’s it.”

According to Gentile, drivers are fighting to retain the Employee Protection Provision (EPP), an amendment added in 1979 that guarantees drivers will retain routes, regardless of which company oversees the bid.

Strikers believe Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to instate makeshift drivers could be hazardous for the thousands of children who take buses to school. Certification, which normally takes roughly a year and includes drug testing, fingerprinting and hours of training, will take less than 24 hours for fill-in drivers.

“If the mayor wants to put a child in a vehicle with a driver who has no experience, what does that say?” said Gentile. “They’re going to rush to the school and throw the kid off the bus because they don’t care.”

The substitute bus drivers are set to make $14 an hour, a wage many drivers agreed doesn’t promote job longevity or dedication.

“[Bloomberg] is putting the almighty dollar above children’s safety,” said a driver.

On Monday, January 28, representatives from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 met with a mediator, Justice Milton Mollen, to discuss drivers’ concerns. While city officials did not attend the meeting, Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello said Bloomberg’s involvement in arbitration is “necessary to move towards a resolution and end this strike.”

 

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