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Bus company, striking workers in talks Tuesday night

The union representing bus drivers in four Nassau County school districts went on strike Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. The strike affects students in the Freeport, Baldwin, Hicksville and Rockville Centre school districts. An estimated 20,000 students attend the four districts. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Leaders of Baumann & Sons Buses Inc. and the striking drivers’ union were in negotiations late Tuesday night with a federal mediator, as educators and parents in affected Nassau County school districts hoped for a swift resolution.

Debra Hagan, president of Transport Workers Union Local 252, which represents 300 drivers, monitors and mechanics, said talks with Baumann resumed at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The workers went on strike at 5 a.m. Monday.

“We’re still in negotiations. There’s been some slight movement in our direction, but not substantial enough yet.” Hagan said at 11:50 p.m. in a brief interview.

The job action has affected about 20,000 students in the Baldwin, Freeport, Hicksville and Rockville Centre systems, as well as those in private schools in those areas who are bused by the districts and the NYC Office of Pupil Transportation, with students in Queens and Brooklyn.

All four Nassau districts updated notices on their websites, advising students and parents to check back for developments and encouraging them to make other plans.

The Rockville Centre district has a contingency plan in place for Wednesday that includes Oceanside-based Guardian Bus Co. and Baumann, Superintendent William Johnson said Tuesday night.

That plan would cover about 60 percent of students transported by the district, including those in area private schools.

“This is about kids at the end of the day, and it is very troubling in that these adults would put kids in harm’s way,” Johnson said.

The Hicksville district’s advisory noted that it planned to have extended hours of school operation — 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. — in place on Wednesday.

The strike’s impact was significantly lessened Tuesday because classes in public schools were not held on Election Day. On Monday, traffic congestion and scenes of frustration and confusion played out at some schools during the times for drop-off and afternoon pickup.

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying the union’s 2.5 million members statewide support Local 252. “The decision to strike is never taken lightly,” Cilento’s statement said, specifically urging Baumann “to do the right thing and quickly resolve the issues.”

Ronald Baumann, president of Baumann and Sons Buses Inc., said in a statement on Monday that the strike “is disappointing on many levels.” He noted that meetings also are scheduled for Friday and Nov. 28.

At issue has been the payment to drivers on days off in the school calendar, Hagan has said. The employees want to be paid consistently for five days and in full during a five-day week.

She also has said that drivers should get a greater percentage of pay when they take students to activities during the day — on field trips, for example.

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