More Than 100 Matrons Report For Duty Only To Find Out They Lost Jobs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Many school bus drivers and matrons in New York City who serve more than 150,000 children were back on the road after a monthlong strike.

Regular bus schedules resumed on all 7,700 routes Wednesday morning. Around 5,000 of those routes were affected by the strike.

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“It was nice, good feeling, very good feeling,” said driver Frank Vazquez. “Kids were happy to see us.”

School Chancellor Dennis Walcott called it “a good day for our students,” adding “They will be able to get back to school riding on yellow buses.”

But it wasn’t a good day for everyone.

More than 100 matrons in Brooklyn reported for duty Wednesday to find out they had lost their jobs.

Among them was Celia Garcia, who was told she no longer has a job.

“I was very disappointed that he didn’t let us go in. I think we work very hard for Joseph Fazzia for all these years and we don’t deserve to get treated like that by him,” Garcia told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.

Fazzia, who runs buses under the Boro Wide and Jofaz names, refused to comment.

Garcia said Fazzia rolled his buses with replacement matrons after first allegedly telling 100 workers that the company had gone out of business then saying their training certificates were out of compliance.

“I produced the documents to him, now we’re waiting to see what he’s gonna say,” Garcia said.

Bus drivers and matrons with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 suspended their strike Friday after walking off the job on Jan. 16.

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“We are glad to welcome back the local 1181 drivers and matrons,” Walcott said. “Their children have missed them — and we need them back so our children can get to school.”

The strike was called off after union leaders were assured that their concerns about job protection would be heard by prospective New York City mayoral candidates after this year’s election.

The union wanted the city to include protections for current employees in future contracts with bus companies, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a court ruling prohibited the city from doing so.

Despite the strike being over, that issue has not yet been resolved.

“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.

“Nothing was really resolved,” said matron Madeline Santiago. “They sent us back to work and we have a lot of uncertainty right now.”

The city saved about $80 million because it wasn’t paying bus companies during the strike, but spent more than $20 million on MetroCards and reimbursements for parents who had to use taxis and gas, Walcott said.

So far, officials said there have been about 60 different contract bids.

“We received the opening bids for new contracts and there’s the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in savings and we will plow that back into the schools where they belong,” Bloomberg said.

The city spends nearly $7,000 a year for each student on a bus. The school bus strike was the first in the city since 1979.

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