NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office is pushing a plan that would give school bus drivers raises.
The bill would establish city grants to raise pay as well as rehire experienced drivers and other school bus employees who lost their jobs or had their incomes drastically cut at the end of the Michael Bloomberg administration, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported Wednesday.
Councilman Daneek Miller (D-Queens) is one of the bill’s sponsors.
“We’re trying to make just what was unjust by the past administration,” Miller said.
As Lamb reported, the total grant money is capped at $42 million and will go to 16 eligible school bus companies.
It was a dominant story as Bloomberg began his final year in office — a month-long school bus strike after the former mayor demanded contract reforms to save the city money.
Student transportation costs had soared over 30 years — from $100 million to $1 billion.
But critics said the Bloomberg reforms resulted in reduced pay and benefits for veteran drivers like Carlos Fret.
“Well, basically I’m being forced now to go to another company that’s going to pay me half what I was making and no medical, no pension,” Fret told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello on Wednesday.
Mayor de Blasio and City Council allies say veteran bus driver salaries have dropped from around $45,000 to $25,000 per year, and as a result it’s time to reverse the Bloomberg reforms.
“We believe that people ought to be able to earn a living and that the taxpayers shouldn’t seek to achieve savings by gutting the pay of working class people,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope).
There has been some grumbling about using public money to subsidize the salaries of private company workers, but not enough to defeat the measure.
“They’re willing to help, and that’s a big step in trying to correct what Bloomberg did,” Fret said.
Last year’s strike ended when the unions decided they couldn’t beat Bloomberg, and would try their luck with a new mayor.
The strategy appears to have worked.
The subsidized pay would be a one-year expense. De Blasio is asking Albany to change state law so future bus contracts can include wage protections for veteran drivers, Aiello reported.
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