LaborPress Editorial By Neal Tepel
For the first time in over 30 years, Mayor Bloomberg issued bus route bids without inclusion of the Employee Protection Provision (EPP), which has provided New York City with years of stable, quality, school bus service. The bids ordered by City Hall include 1150 routes affecting 2,000 bus drivers serving children in special education classes.
I worked at the New York City Department of Education for thirty-one years: as a special education teacher, placement coordinator responsible for special education placement including busing, and as a Chairperson for the Committee on Special Education in charge of providing special education services. Every September, the school year begins with much chaos and confusion over children’s bus routes, student home addresses, and many other mishaps.
The opening of school is a very trying time for parents and children and a period when it’s critical to have experienced bus drivers on the job. Clearly the inclusion of an Employee Protection Provision into bus company contracts is needed for the safety and security of the thousands of children riding school buses each day. This city needs the most qualified, skilled, and experienced bus crews on the job.
The Employee Protection Provision creates industry wide seniority for bus drivers and matrons, regardless whether unionized or not. This important system encourages workers to stay on the job and has led to a stable, experienced workforce. There is little turnover with most personnel having over six years work experience. The average wage for a union bus driver is $35,000 a year with non-union workers earning less. The pension system is privately operated and funded through members and bus companies.
Contrary to logic, City Hall wants to eliminate bus drivers with years of experience and training. The changes to the ATU Local 1181 contract would affect bus service to youngsters in special education classes who are most in need of the steadiness, reliability, and consistency. There is no law or court ruling that prevents the Department of Education from including the EPP in these bids that that should take pace immediately.