January 31, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
An accountant tasked with overseeing one Brooklyn transportation company’s troubled finances is fed up with Mayor Bloomberg’s refusal to meet with union officials to end NYC’s two week old school bus strike - and says he is not alone in the tight-lipped industry.
“It’s a terrible thing that’s going on because, in reality, the strike isn’t against us, it’s against the mayor,” the Hoyt Transportation official told LaborPress. “We’re just innocent bystanders losing money every day.”
Buses at Hoyt Transportation’s Coney Island location have been sitting idle and draining cash from company coffers ever since ATU Local 1181 authorized a walkout on January 16 to protest the removal of longstanding employee protection provisions from bus driver and matron contracts.
The Hoyt Transportation source requested anonymity, but stressed that “As an accountant trying to protect the company, we obviously want these employees back.”
“We can’t win in this deal,” he said. “We’re the loser no matter which way you slice it. We can’t send runs out because people are blocking it, so we’re losing money. We pay rent on yards. We pay notes on buses, we pay office staff, we pay mechanics. What are we supposed to do? We’re getting slaughtered.”
School bus operators actually sat down to talk with union officials at City Hall on January 28, but Mayor Bloomberg was not around for those negotiations.
“It’s terrible,” the Hoyt Transportation accountant said. “It’s counterproductive. [The mayor] is saying that he’s not part of it - but he’s really the one who is a major part of it all.”
Despite the administration’s insistence to the contrary, ATU Local 1181 maintains that the employee protection provisions, or EPPs found in school bus driver and matron contracts have been, and continue to be legally admissible.
Beyond that, the Hoyt Transportation source that LaborPress talked to said that the clamor over EPP is both overblown and avoidable.
“This is not a unique situation,” he said. “And one of the reasons the court would allow an EPP is if there is a threat of labor disruption. Well, this is not only a threat of labor disruption, this is labor disruption.”
The same source also pointed out that “loads of construction contracts in New York City have EPP sections in them” and that costs to contractors since 1979 have only moderately increased year-to-year by the Consumer Price Index.
“That was it,” he said. “No more, since 1979. That’s what the contract went up by.”
Hoyt Transportation matrons - who routinely care for profoundly disabled children - start out at $453 a week. The highest level salaries top out at $612. But even at that those low-level wages, striking union workers fear they could be undercut, and even lose their jobs without employee protection provisions.
“These aren’t tremendously high-paid people that they’re looking to separate from these jobs,” the Hoyt Transportation source added. “In many cases, they have to be at work by 6:30 in the morning. And their day doesn’t finish until 4 o’clock or 4:30. No overtime. How many people does Bloomberg have working in his organization who work for such a pittance - and he’s looking for people to take a cut in pay?”
For all of these reasons, the Hoyt Transportation official who agreed to talk to LaborPress said that his message to Mayor Bloomberg is clear: “Put the EPP back in the contract.”
“I guess the most important thing is to put it in the bid, and in two years from now when all the contractors come due at the same time, when everybody has two years worth of notice, then pull the EPP from the contract when everybody has full notice and everybody’s competitively bidding,” he said.
While not as forthcoming as he is, the Hoyt Transportation source that LaborPress spoke to said that the “bulk” of the city’s other drowning bus companies are just as frustrated with the mayor’s stubborn stance.
“I would say that their view would be very similar,” he said.