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Parents, Students Glad To See School Bus Strike End

A school bus drives down a street in New York City (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A school bus drives down a street in New York City (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The school bus strike that has had thousands of parents scrambling to get their kids to school for the past month has come to an end.

As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 said Friday that drivers will be back behind the wheel when school resumes on Wednesday.

As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, parents can expect robocalls early next week alerting them that the strike is over.

When classes resume on Wednesday, Schools Chancellor Walcott is expecting all routes to be back in business, and Walcott is sending a letter this weekend making that clear.

The approximately 8,000 drivers walked off the job four weeks ago. And while they have decided to call off the strike, they say the fight is not over.

As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, parents can expect robocalls early next week alerting them that the strike is over.

When classes resume on Wednesday, Schools Chancellor Walcott is expecting all routes to be back in business, and Walcott is sending a letter this weekend making that clear.

“The principles that we fight for remain pressing issues that the City will have to address. The fact is, a safe workforce is an experienced workforce and the Employee Protection Provisions currently included in the City’s busing contracts protect our most experienced drivers, matrons, and mechanics – and have created one of the safest workforces in the entire country, Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello said.

The walkout began Jan. 16 , triggered by the city’s plan to put bus contracts out to bid to lower costs.

Tens of thousands of students were affected by the strike, forcing parents to re-adjust their schedules and reach into their pockets to pay for transportation.

“We actually are cutting back on things,” said Eileen O’Keefe of the Upper West Side. “There are things that we’ve just stopped doing and places we’ve stopped going, because it’s really is a lot of money. I mean, we’re talking $350 a week.”

“What was my initial reaction? I said people have got to go to work,” said Jessica Diaz of Harlem. “People have to babysit, you know, they’ve got go to work.”

During the strike, MetroCards were distributed and parents will be reimbursed for some travel, but many are relieved to put it the strike behind them.

“It’s certainly going to be a big help for me. I’m actually older,” O’Keefe said. “It’s really hard to get back and forth; climb up and down the hills. It’s really a lot of work.”

Also relieved are local lawmakers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the job protections the union was arguing for were illegal.

He released a statement Friday saying in part, “For decades, the monopolistic bus contract process benefited the bus companies and unions at the expense of the city’s taxpayers and students – but no longer.”

Recently, bids for routes were taken, with Walcott saying, “The city accepted the first bids on school bus contracts in more than 30 years, with the potential to cut costs, transfer the savings to classrooms and secure quality service from certified drivers and matrons for our students.”

Cordiello released a statement, saying the union plans to work with Bloomberg’s successor: ”We continue to be dismayed by the Bloomberg Administration, which offered no assistance in bringing this strike to a close and furthermore, continued to mislead the public that the drivers, who make an average of $35,000/year and the matrons who make an at most $28,000/year, are somehow the driving force behind rising school bus transportation costs. “

Regardless of any future fight ahead, students are looking forward to getting back to their normal morning routines.

“I’m happy, because now I can sit down; hang out with my friends, and my mom doesn’t have to spend that much money,” one girl said.

The five Democratic mayoral candidates said that, if elected, they will revisit the job security issue.

Union leaders said they’re confident they can work on a deal when Mayor Michael Bloomberg is out of office.

The city so far has shelled out more than $20 million for alternate transportation, including reimbursements for parents driving their children to school using cabs or car services, as well as the MetroCards.

But the city estimates it did not have to pay nearly $79 million for the thousands of canceled bus routes.

The city spends nearly $7,000 a year for each student on a bus, far more than any other city.

Are you glad the strike is over? Leave your comments below…