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School bus strike in 4 Nassau districts expected to continue Monday

Contract dispute between Baumann & Sons Buses and TWU Local 252 affects 20,000-plus students in four Nassau County districts.

Students at South Side Middle School in the

Students at South Side Middle School in the Rockville Centre district get on Baumann & Sons buses at afternoon dismissal on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. The district was the only one of four strike-affected systems that held classes Friday; the others were closed for observance of Veterans Day. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

The school bus strike that disrupted transportation for more than 20,000 children in four Nassau County school districts this week will continue Monday, the union’s leader said Friday after no settlement was reached following hours of negotiations.

The talks between leaders of Baumann & Sons Buses Inc. and Transport Workers Union Local 252, overseen by a federal mediator, began at about 8 a.m. and stretched into the late afternoon, union president Debra Hagan said.

Another session is planned Tuesday, according to Hagan and a statement from Ronald Baumann, president of Baumann & Sons.

“We want the Baumanns to know this: Members of Local 252 stand united and they are resolved to end this strike,” Hagan said Friday shortly after 4 p.m.

Baumann, in a statement, said the company has agreed to some changes.

“The Union’s strike benefits no one,” his statement said. “We wish the Union would reconsider its position and commit to resolving its issues on fair and reasonable terms.”

Without a settlement before Monday, students in the Baldwin, Freeport, Hicksville and Rockville Centre districts will be without their regular rides to and from schools on Ronkonkoma-based Baumann’s vehicles at the start of a second week.

The strike also affects students in private schools for whom the districts provide transportation, including Chaminade High School in Mineola, Freeport Christian Academy, Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale and St. Agnes Cathedral School in Rockville Centre.

Members of TWU Local 252, which represents nearly 400 drivers, monitors and mechanics, began striking at 5 a.m. Monday.

Before the talks on Friday, representatives of Baumann and the union had last negotiated in a session that began at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and went until 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Among the issues have been wage increases and payment to drivers on days off in the school calendar, as well as what is called “charter pay.” The union’s drivers want a greater percentage of wages for transporting students on field trips during the school day, Hagan has said.

The strike’s effects on schools were lighter Friday. Of the four strike-affected districts, only the Rockville Centre system’s schools were open. The other three districts were closed in observance of Veterans Day — as were most, if not all, of the private schools whose students have been affected.

Rockville Centre officials — who earlier this week hired Oceanside-based Guardian Bus Co. for some routes — had arranged with Baumann to transport nearly all of its students on Friday.

Outside Jennie E. Hewitt Elementary School in Rockville Centre was Marina Hollaway of Baldwin, who has had to alter both her personal and professional routines this week.

Hollaway’s son, Jaiden, is an eighth-grader at Baldwin Middle School, and she is a nanny for two children who attend Hewitt Elementary. She picks up her young charges from Hewitt in the afternoon.

Hollaway said she has paid $35 for cabs to and from school this week for her son because of the strike’s effects in Baldwin and her need to get to work.

“It’s been difficult because he has to get up extra early for me to call the cab,” Hollaway said. “Because usually when it’s cold, the cab does not come when it says it’s going to come.”

“It’s hard, but what are you gonna do?” Hollaway said. “Just gotta make it work.”

The Rockville Centre district was quick to post a notice on its website Friday that the strike has not been resolved.

The notice said the district on Monday will implement its contingency plan of using Guardian Bus for its students and for Baumann’s vehicles to transport students to private schools. The district also used that plan on Thursday.

Rockville Centre Superintendent William Johnson on Thursday said the district could decide to cancel its contracts with Baumann. “That’s a possibility if they don’t settle this,” he said then, noting that “becomes more of a possibility” each day.

The bus strike, according to Newsday’s records, is the first since September 2003, which affected about 12,000 students in eastern Suffolk County districts. That strike lasted three days until the parties reached an agreement.

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