NEW YORK, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- School bus drivers in New York plan to strike on Wednesday to demand job protection, which would strand more than 150,000 students, the union representing the group said Monday.
"We remain optimistic that we can reach an agreement, we are here today to announce that Local 1181 will strike effective Wednesday morning," Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, told a press conference.
"This is not a decision we've arrived at lightly, but an action we must take," he said. "The mayor can end the strike. The mayor can come and talk to us and end the strike."
Calling the strike "regrettable," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the union was "abandoning" the tens of thousands of students and their families relying on school buses every day.
The city has planned a series of measures to minimize the impact of the upcoming strike: students will be offered a temporary MetroCard valid as long as the strike continues and parents using cars or taxis for the school run will be reimbursed.
City authorities said it would open contracts to new bidders to reduce costs, noting it pays 1.1 billion U.S. dollars for school busing, or an average of 6,900 dollars per student, far more than any other school system in the country.
If the vendors employing the yellow-bus drivers lose their city contracts, the drivers could lose their jobs. Therefore, the school bus drivers' union is demanding that the bids include job protections, which the city said is not legally allowed to provide.
"Have you ever heard of a strike where one side is demanding something that the courts have ruled illegal?" asked Bloomberg earlier, before the official announcement of the strike.
"They will pretend that this is about safety, but the fact is these contracts include the exact same safety provisions as the current contracts. This isn't about safety, it's about job protections the city cannot legally offer," he said.
According to local media, a strike would be the first by the city's school bus drivers since 1979, when they walked out for 13 weeks.