Three school bus companies sued the New York City Department of Education, alleging that they have been unfairly required to maintain costly employment protections, putting them at a disadvantage to new bidders.
Staten Island Bus Inc., Lonero Transit Inc. and Pioneer Transportation Corp. filed lawsuit Feb. 8 in Manhattan state court over the provisions, which are also at issue in a strike by city school bus drivers. The three companies say they collectively provide about 70 percent of the transportation for the city’s school children.
The companies seek to have the provisions in their contracts, which last through the 2014-2015 school year, declared unlawful and the department barred from awarding new contracts without the requirements until they are stricken from existing agreements, according to court filings.
“We’re caught in a bind,” Steven J. Shore, a lawyer for the companies, said in a phone interview. “If the clause is illegal, it should be deleted from our existing contracts.”
City officials have said that a decision by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, prohibits them from imposing job security requirements. A December 2012 request for bids for special-education bus routes didn’t include the provisions, a first for the city in more than 30 years, according to the suit.
Partly because of the bid request, city bus drivers last month started a strike affecting about 152,000 of the city’s 1.1 million public-school students.
A lawyer for the city’s education department didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Carolyn Daly Brink, a spokeswoman for a coalition of New York City school bus contractors, said in an e-mailed statement that the disparity “makes it impossible for a substantial number of qualified school bus contractors to competitively bid and ultimately results in higher prices to the Department of Education.”
The case is Staten Island Bus Inc. v. New York City Department of Education, 100304-2013, New York Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).