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Union: No school bus strike on Halloween in Nassau

Members of TWU Local 252 rally Tuesday, Oct.

Members of TWU Local 252 rally Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, in Oceanside. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Although a walkout by school bus drivers who transport students in four Long Island districts did not take place Tuesday, a strike remains an option if there is “no movement” by the bus company in Wednesday’s negotiations, a union leader said.

The bus drivers serve the Freeport, Baldwin, Hicksville and Rockville Centre districts, said Debra Hagan, president of TWU Local 252.

Ronkonkoma-based Baumann & Sons Buses said in a written statement that the company had “heard, as the School Districts have,” that Local 252 was planning to strike Tuesday “by taking children to school and then abandoning them there for the strike to start in the afternoon.”

A strike on Halloween would be particularly hurtful, the statement said, because children would be “stranded at school wondering when they will be home to begin trick or treating.”

Drivers “are not going to put the children and the families in harm’s way,” Hagan said.

“We’re not going to spoil Halloween for the children and cause disruption,” Hagan said.

The drivers for Baumann serve the four districts, which all had notices on their websites about the possibility of a Tuesday walkout.

Meanwhile, a union rally Tuesday at the Baumann yard in Oceanside where Hagan was interviewed as about 60 representatives of the union chanted “252” and carried signs saying, “What do we want? Fair contracts. What do we have? Nothing.”

Hagan said another rally would be held Wednesday morning at the same location. The union represents more than 300 drivers, monitors and mechanics.

Hagan said the union seeks 38 guaranteed weeks of work, an increase in the company’s 401(k) contributions, and an increase in pay for driving charter buses for transporting children to and from activities such as school trips and basketball games.

Freeport Schools Superintendent Kishore Kuncham had said before Tuesday’s rally that he did not believe a strike was likely on Tuesday but district parents were alerted via the website and robocalls of the possibility so they could arrange for child care and transportation if necessary.

Officials said a strike would affect more than 5,000 students in Freeport alone.

Kuncham said he wanted districts to have time to prepare for transportation alternatives. On Freeport’s website a new post lets the school community know that the request has been made to the union’s attorney, he said.

Kuncham said he did not want parents or students to have to worry every day about whether there would be a strike.

“I don’t want them to have the anxiety of looking for a robocall and have the continuous threat of a strike that could happen any time — that’s very disruptive,” Kuncham said.

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