The union representing bus drivers in four Nassau County school districts went on strike Monday morning.
The union and officials from Ronkonkoma-based Baumann & Sons Buses Inc. had been in ongoing talks, with a federal mediation session set for Nov. 10.
Debra Hagan, president of TWU Local 252 representing 300 drivers, monitors and mechanics, said early Monday that workers were on strike as of 5 a.m.
The strike affects students in the Freeport, Baldwin, Hicksville and Rockville Centre school districts, as well as the NYC Office of Pupil Transportation, with students in Queens and Brooklyn.
“We’ve been in communication with the districts, and we recognize that it is a burden for the parents and the districts for having to provide other means to get the children into school and getting them home,” Hagan said in an interview Sunday. “That’s why the strike is first thing in the morning, so we’re not leaving any children waiting at bus stops.”
Wendy Sidman, human resources business partner for Baumann, said in an email that the company “has received confirmation from the Union attorney that we are scheduled to meet Tuesday with the mediator.”
Ronald Baumann, the company president, wrote in a statement: “The company did not simply walk out of negotiations as the Union has falsely stated. The company was also available to meet before November 10, 2017 and still is.”
A sticking point in the negotiations has been over payment to drivers on days off in the school calendar that occur during the five-day week, including snow days, Hagan said.
“We have tried to come to terms,” Hagan said. “The company’s answer is it’s their way, and that’s it.”
Freeport Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said Sunday, “It’s very disappointing that the management and the union have not come to some agreement.”
He added, “They’re not really acting in the best interests of the children and the families . . . don’t cause this chaos and inconvenience for the kids and the families.”
William Johnson, superintendent of the Rockville Centre School District, said for Monday, “We’re just going to have to notify families and hope they’ll be able to get all their children to school.” School officials are in talks with other companies to provide service by Wednesday if there is a strike, Johnson said. .
Johnson said the drama could affect the school district’s future dealings.
“If we have to go out and find another contractor to do the job, then we will,” Johnson said. “They don’t understand there are other people out there who want to do business with the school districts.”