Mayor Bloomberg called for an emergency press conference on Friday to address a possible immediate strike by the city's school bus drivers over a disagreement concerning provisions in a bus contract that expires in June 2012.
Bloomberg was joined by Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott who sent a letter to parents on Friday warning of the "strong possibility of an immediate, systemwide strike" that would affect more than 152,000 children throughout the city.
The discord primarily lies in the Department of Education's request for new school bus contracts to serve children in preschool, pre-kindergarten classes, and special education classes. In the renewed contracts, the bus union Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 is demanding that the city guarantee job security based on seniority in the event that the companies do not employ some members.
The Mayor said that the union's threat to strike would be illegal because the city could not lawfully guarantee jobs for the drivers.
Bloomberg went on to criticize their demands and said their "outrageous act would hurt our students and cause severe disruptions to their education." He went on to say he hoped for a different result that would not affect students:
We continue to hope that the bus driver and escort union will not take such unwarranted action in response to what is the proper, legal course for the Department of Education to take on behalf of our students and the City's taxpayers.
Union president Michael Cordiello defended the decision:
In a time when the economy is failing and people need to be in work, this is all about protecting jobs.
The press conference also addressed possible contingency plans in the event that the strike does take place. Such plans include students and parents who escort their children using Metrocards provided for free by the city and full reimbursement for any transportation costs for students who have Individualized Education Plans.
While there is no word yet as to when the strike would start, the city has already prepared by purchasing 300,000 subway cards.