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Bloomberg Sees Threat of Post-Holiday School Bus Driver Strike

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the union representing yellow school-bus drivers has threatened a post-holiday strike affecting more than 150,000 students as the city seeks to reduce costs.

The drivers, who work for private companies, are protesting the city’s request for bids on service without promising to protect jobs based on seniority. The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest tribunal, has ruled that municipalities must seek competitive bids and can’t guarantee jobs based on length of service, Bloomberg said.

No negotiations with the union have been held because the court decision bars the city from agreeing with their demands and because the drivers aren’t city workers, the mayor said. Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, didn’t immediately return a telephone message seeking comment on the possible strike.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” the mayor said at a City Hall news conference. “I just hope they have the good sense not to walk off their jobs.”

The largest U.S. school system serves 1.1 million students, most of whom walk to classes or use mass transit. A strike would affect students from pre-kindergarten through high school, including 13,600 special-education pupils, and students who attend parochial and other private schools, the mayor said.

Rising Costs

The city’s school-transportation costs have increased to $1.1 billion from $71 million in 1979, the mayor said. The contract expires in June 2013, at the end of the school year.

The city’s Department of Education has sent out letters to parents and guardians detailing contingency plans in the event of a strike, including the distribution of free MetroCards to pay fares on buses and subways. Those caring for pre-school and special-needs children may request MetroCards for themselves to escort students, the department said.

Parents who must drive students to work may apply to the city for reimbursement at a rate of 55 cents per mile, Bloomberg said.

The union raised similar objections last year when the city sought bids for service on some of its 7,700 routes, yet no strike was called.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg news parent Bloomberg LP.

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