From WNBC-TV, by Tracie Strahan, January 29, 2013:
Replacement School Bus Drivers and Matrons Cross Picket Line: Chants against the replacement workers were scathingLABOR NOTES: The strike will hurt special needs students
Replacement workers on duty for the first time since the New York City school bus driver strike began nearly two weeks ago, got an earful from protesting drivers and matrons Tuesday.
"That's my right to yell," said Local 1181 member Maria Law, outside the Staten Island Bus Company's depot, where all day long the chants against the replacement workers were scathing.
Of the 113 routes affected by the strike, 59 were back up and running Tuesday as replacement workers hit the streets just a day after a mediator oversaw talks between both sides. On Monday, striking workers renewed their call for job protection while city officials continued to seek contracts with private bus companies in a quest to control costs they claim are spiraling out of control.
Parents like Jackie Addeo, whose daughter has special needs, questioned the training and experience level of the replacement workers now in charge of getting children to and from school.
"How do I know what your capabilities are and what your temperament is gonna be because you have to have a lot of patience with these kids," Addeo said.
Strikers on the picket line also wondered if the replacement workers were properly trained to do the job.
"These people took a four hour class yesterday, where our matrons go 10 hours for the state, 10 hours for the city, CPR, red cross physical performance, safety classes throughout the year," said Ernest Maione, a Local 1181 shop steward. "This guy did four hours and put them on the bus and said 'it's OK you can go pick up those kids and take them to school.'"
Patrick Cerniglia, general manager of Staten Island Bus Company refuted the claim that the replacement workers had been inadequately trained for the job.
"They're experienced, they are safe, they are trained. It doesn't get any safer than what we did out here today," Cerniglia said.
For one replacement worker who declined to give his name, the stress of crossing the picket line was too much to bear, causing the man to opt for retirement instead.
"A disgrace for the city, for the parents, the workers," said union member William Cox. "I'm afraid for these children."
The rushed, half-day training of matrons bears out the contention of a matron cited a Labor Notes article a week and a half ago. Samantha Winslow, Labor Notes, January 16, 2013, "New York School Bus Strikers Say Low Wages, Turnover Will Hurt Special-Needs Kids"
“This is a very professional and serious job that we get trained for,” said Anita Timmes, a matron who’s accompanied children on and off the buses for 23 years.Read the entire Labor Notes here.
Timmes, who had been on the picket line since dawn, pointed out that many children use wheelchairs or are attached to medical devices such as respirators; they require more than just supervision. “I don’t think any driver can come off the street and do what we do,” she said.
Out of New York’s 1.1 million public school population, 150,000 students use the bus services; 54,000 have special needs.
As part of her job, Timmes goes through yearly trainings in first-aid and emergency preparation, in addition to being fingerprinted and licensed by the Board of Education. Long-term workers learn students’ needs, assisting them day in and day out. “We get attached to them as they get attached to us,” Timmes said.
Drivers too receive rigorous testing and training, including road tests and physicals, said driver John Jankowski, who has four wheelchair students on his route. He has worked as a driver for 22 years, and today is spending morning and night on the picket line.
Emma Sokoloff-Rubin in Gotham Schools writes Wednesday, Jan. 30 afternoon, "City turns down school bus drivers union’s offer to pause strike"
A union proposal to suspend the city’s two-week-old school bus strike temporarily got a swift rejection this week from city officials, who said the plan would block cost-cutting measures for over a year.
The bus drivers union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, called a press conference today to announce that the city had turned down its proposal for a two-to-three month “cooling off” period during which drivers would return to work and the city would not solicit bids for new transportation contracts.
The union called the strike because the city is not including seniority protections for current drivers in the new contracts’ terms.
In a mediation session organized but not attended by the city, union president Michael Cordiello met on Monday with Justice Milton Mollen, who brokered an agreement to end the last bus strike, in 1979, and representatives from several major bus companies.
Cordiello said today that during mediation, he agreed to send drivers and matrons back to work for two to three months if the city would suspend the special education transportation bidding process and negotiate with the union.
But freezing bidding for two months would make it impossible to have new contracts signed by September, delaying new contracts for another school year, according to City Hall spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua. “Postponing the bids would guarantee that the same billion-dollar contracts we have now stay in place next year,” she said.
City officials appear prepare to wait out the strike, which could last through the end of the school year. The Department of Education has revised its strategies for helping families use alternate transportation, and some school bus companies have trained replacement drivers and matrons. The department has certified 49 new drivers and 200 escorts since the strike started, officials said this week.
[Ed.: Translation: 1) In waiting this out until the DOE is serious about fighting the bus drivers; 2) With a small number of replacement drivers and matrons, the DOE is slowly breaking the strike.]
“We have shifted from broad initial preparations to more tailored options for students disproportionately affected by the absence of bus service,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in a message to principals sent late Tuesday. The city has assigned Walcott police protection at work and at home because of the strike.
On Tuesday, attendance in District 75 schools, which serve severely disabled students who rely heavily on yellow bus service, was at its highest level since the strike began. About 73 percent of students in those schools were present, compared to less than 65 percent all of last week.