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At City Hall rally, bus drivers say no strike until after holidays

The “imminent” strike that Mayor Bloomberg warned New Yorkers about three weeks ago won’t happen ― for now.

Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said today at a rally in front of City Hall that while a strike remains on the table as a bargaining tactic, school bus drivers will continue to come to work until at least the holidays are over.

After that, Cordiello said, “we will explore all options” toward having their work demands met.

Cordiello’s union, which includes 9,000 bus drivers, first threatened a strike three weeks ago after Chancellor Dennis Walcott informed them that a new busing contract bid would not include a job security provision for current drivers. In response, Walcott and Bloomberg held a joint press conference detailing the Department of Education’s contingency plan, a move that some observers criticized as unnecessarily showy.

Cordiello had already disputed the city’s characterization of the threat, saying that nothing would happen immediately. At today’s rally, which was attended by dozens of members from the ATU, the Teamsters union, the Transit Workers Union, and elected officials, he said a strike would not happen until January at the earliest.

It is unlikely that the job security provision, called the Employment Protection Provision, will be included in the contract that’s set to be filled by June. The New York State court upheld a state law barring the provision from being included in contracts and ruled that the Department of Education could not use the wording in its contracts. Any effort to reinsert the wording would have to end in the process of changing the law. Cordiello said he hoped to lobby Albany to change the law by the time the next contract, for K-8 busing, expires next year.

The union also called the press conference to raise the issue that the most experienced bus drivers are most equipped to safely deliver kids to and from school each day.

“Think about it,” said City Council member Daniel Dromm. ” Who do we literally turn our kids over to first thing in the morning? Bus drivers.”

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