Atlantic Express bus may cut 5,500 jobs

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A Staten Island-based school bus company has said it plans to close and lay off its 5,500 employees, including 825 on Long Island, unless it obtains financing and labor union concessions.

Atlantic Express Transportation Corp., whose yellow buses transport many Long Island students, noted the possible layoffs in a state regulatory filing earlier this week. It listed a Dec. 31 closing date. The company has locations in Farmingdale, Plainview and Oceanside. Its biggest market is New York City.

Just last week, Atlantic filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It said it would use the Chapter 11 process to explore financing, to market its assets and to continue labor negotiations. In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy a company continues to operate while it tries to work out a reorganization plan.

"Quite simply, our current business model in our largest market, New York City, is not sustainable as union labor costs and operating expenses have severely hindered our ability to remain competitive and meet our financial obligations," said David Carpenter, president and chief executive of Atlantic Express, in a statement.

The company and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 have been locked in contract talks. A company spokeswoman said Friday that without a new contract the company can't get financing.

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In the spring the two groups reached an impasse and the company imposed a 7.5 percent reduction in wages and benefits. The union went to court and the cuts were reversed.

The union blamed the company for its financial woes.

"Once again, the company is determined to try and lay the blame of their failed leadership at the feet of the hardworking men and women who are tasked with transporting our city's children safely to and from school every day," said Michael Cordiello, the local's president.

Atlantic also operates in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and California.

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