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Bus union confirms strike threat but says action is not imminent

School buses at Coney Island in 2008. The bus drivers union that Mayor Bloomberg warned earlier today could wage an imminent strike on the school bus system confirmed that a strike was "likely" but disputed that there were "immediate plans to do so." A labor dispute between the city and the union, the Amalgamated Transit Union's Local 1181, is over job protections for school bus drivers that would essentially guarantee employment for current employee regardless of which bus contractors win an upcoming contract for busing services. The city says it considers the strike illegal and is asking the National Labor Relations Board, which adjudicates conflict between employers and employees, to seek a court injunction to stop it. A strike would affect 152,000 of the city's 1.1 million students, including more than 50,000 students with special needs, according to the city. At a hastily assembled press conference today, Mayor Bloomberg said the union had not officially informed the city that it would strike but had signaled the intention strongly in conversations beginning Wednesday. The conversations took place because the city said it planned to announce that it would consider hiring new companies to provide pre-kindergarten busing. That announcement happened today. "They were very clear to our people that they would intentionally strike the system," Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said about Local 1181 at the press conference. In a statement, Amalgamated Transit Union's Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello confirmed the threats but said it would not happen right away and he criticized Bloomberg for painting a doomsday scenario.