February 9, 2013
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott appeared before a joint committee hearing and told the committee members that the end to the school bus strike is simple: The drivers of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union should come back to work. Read More and Watch Video
"Local 1181 can come back to work. It’s that simple. It’s in their hands to come back to work,” said Walcott.
But Council Member David Greenfield directly asked Walcott what steps he is taking to end the strike, but Walcott blamed the union for going out on strike and is responsible for ending the strike.
Greenfield asked whether there were any alternatives to the dispute, but Walcott said no.
“Have you offered a middle road,” asked Greenfield.
“There’s no middle road,” said Walcott.
Greenfield then said that Walcott and the Department of Education has to bear responsibility for ending the strike.
“My view is that of average New Yorkers—no question that the union is responsible for starting the strike, there’s no question that you’re responsible for ending the strike. You can offer a middle road, and what you’re saying is that we won’t negotiate and far as average New Yorkers are concerned, that’s simply not acceptable,” said Greenfield.
The Education Chair, Robert Jackson, and Finance Chair, Domenic Recchia, also asked Walcott to resolve the strike, but Walcott maintained that the strike is an issue over collective bargaining between the bus companies and the union.
“This has to be resolved. The city, union and school bus companies have to come together and resolve this or else our children are going to be left out,” said Recchia.
“We’re asking please come to the table to talk with the union and the companies, but the city is being adamant,” said Jackson.
But Walcott said the city is not obliged to sit at the table with the union and school bus companies since the state Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that the city could no longer insert employee protection provisions into contracts signed with the bus companies.
“It would be illegal for the Department of Education to include an EPP [Employment Protection Provision] into this RFP [for 1,110 school bus routes to transport special education students]. The court found that the EPP tends to inflate bids. Additionally, Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut have school busing contracts that don’t provide an EPP,” Walcott said.
But Council Member Letitia James said to Walcott that the Court of Appeals ruling on the EPP applied to school bus contracts in the Pre-K industry, and is not applicable to the current contracts for general education and special education, which expire on June 30.