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Union for school-bus drivers, company meet but reach no agreement

William Johnson, superintendent of the Rockville Centre school

William Johnson, superintendent of the Rockville Centre school district, discusses the school bus strike on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau school districts disrupted by a nearly two-week labor dispute between striking drivers and Baumann & Sons Buses Inc. of Ronkonkoma shored up plans Wednesday night to cover bus routes as last-minute talks between union and bus company officials broke off late Wednesday.

“We did not reach an agreement,” said TWU Local 252 president Debra Hagan after the talks ended about 11:15 p.m. “The strike is still going forward.”

Bus company president Ronald Baumann said in a statement after the negotiations that about 150 employees have crossed the picket line. “The company made significant changes in its proposal yesterday that should have gotten a deal done and it didn’t,” Baumann wrote.

Hagan said she did not know the exact number of employees to cross the picket line.

The strike has disrupted transportation for more than 20,000 students in four Nassau school districts.

Negotiators for Baumann and the Transport Workers Union Local 252 met with a federal mediator in Melville on Wednesday night. The parties met all day Tuesday, but talks ended without an agreement. At that time, the next session was scheduled for Nov. 28.

Also on Tuesday, the Rockville Centre school district — one of the four affected school systems — voted to terminate its contract with Baumann, effective 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

The Baldwin, Freeport and Hicksville school districts also are affected by the job action. The sticking points in the negotiations are payment to drivers on days off during the school calendar, Hagan said. The drivers also want more wages for “charter pay,” referring to payment during school field trips, Hagan said.

More than 300 drivers, monitors and mechanics have been on strike since Nov. 6.

Freeport Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said Wednesday night that Baumann will resume full transportation coverage for district students by Friday, while a combination of Baumann and Oceanside-based Guardian Bus Co. drivers will cover all students Thursday.

A Hicksville district spokeswoman said Wednesday that “the district is continuing to work with its legal counsel to reach a solution.”

The Baldwin school district announced Wednesday night it has restored bus routes using Baumann and Guardian, which is also working in the Rockville Centre district.

Starting Thursday, the district “has been able to reinstate all routes including one late bus at both the Middle and High Schools,” Baldwin Superintendent Shari Camhi said in a statement posted to the district’s website.

The Baldwin, Freeport and Rockville Centre districts announced plans to seek new bus companies through a public bidding process.

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