December 18, 2013

Parents outside Tweed worry about new bus company taking over Atlantic Express routes.
Parents outside Tweed worry about new bus company taking over Atlantic Express routes.

By Marc Bussanich 

New York, NY—Almost one year ago the president of a school bus union, Michael Cordiello, predicted that if the city dropped employee protection provisions with school bus operators it would result in significantly lower wages for school bus drivers and matrons. It also encouraged companies competing for school bus routes to undercut their competitors, inevitably forcing some companies to exit the market. Watch Video of parents and ATU at Tweed

Atlantic Transportation Corporation had contracts with the Department of Education to transport special education children along 1,400 routes. But the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November and is currently auctioning away about $20 million worth of assets, according to Dow Jones Business News.

As Atlantic filed for bankruptcy, it laid off 2,000 school bus drivers and matrons represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1181. On Tuesday evening outside DOE’s offices, parents expressed their concern over how their children would get to school after the company ceases operations on January 1.

Union members called for reinstatement of employee protection provisions, which was the main sticking point earlier in the year when the city decided not to include the provisions in new bids, prompting a one-month strike by ATU Local 1181.

Cordiello said outside Tweed Courthouse that stripping out the provision from the new bids issued by the city just gave the bus companies the opportunity to slash wages and benefits.

“Right after the strike we were negotiating contracts with bus operators that reduced wages and benefits by 7.5 percent [for drivers] and 3.75 percent [for matrons] and took away their vacation time,” said Cordiello.

Elected officials including Councilman Mark Weprin and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito joined parents and Local 1181 drivers outside Tweed. Public Advocate-elect Letitia James said one of the first things she would do in her new office would be to hold a hearing to investigate the quality of training and conditions at school bus companies that won new bids for 1,100 special education routes when the city issued them in February. She called on the Mayor-elect to take action as well.

“I’m calling on Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to reinstate EPP,” said James.

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