Federal mediation will resume Monday between a Long Island school bus company and its workers in a dispute that could affect an estimated 15,000 students in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Ronkonkoma-based Baumann & Sons Buses Inc. and its affiliate, Acme Buses, and employees in Teamsters Local 1205 had resumed talks at 4 p.m. Thursday. They stopped shortly after 10 p.m.
"At the urging of the federal mediator, the parties continue to negotiate in good faith," Glenn J. Smith, an attorney for the company, said in a statement. "We are optimistic that the constructive talks will result in an agreement that both parties can accept."
Timothy Lynch, Local 1205 president, said after negotiations concluded: "It's a very slow coach. We've agreed to continue this process through Monday. There will be no work stoppage before then, and certainly our hope is to achieve a settlement that we can recommend to our hardworking members."
On Wednesday, the two sides spent about 11 hours at the table, starting at 2 p.m.
Lynch has said bus drivers and other union members were prepared to start the job action if the company did not meet demands regarding pay, benefits and the work environment. Many workers aren't making a living wage, he said, with some earning $11 to $13 an hour.
Before entering negotiations Wednesday, the company said in a statement that the union had been inflexible in its demands for pay increases ranging from 16 percent to 34 percent, depending on the job.
The talks were being held at the union's headquarters in Farmingdale.
The uncertainty has about 35 school districts across Long Island that have contracts with Baumann/Acme for all or part of their students' transportation rushing to develop alternative plans.
Districts are legally required to provide transportation for BOCES, special education centers and private and parochial schools, so many of those students also could be affected.
For example, the Island Trees district in Levittown reported on its website that a strike would mean no transportation for 18 private schools, along with interruption for some occupational education students.
Jim Poisella Jr., the company's human resources director, said Baumann/Acme could not produce a full list of the districts it serves. He noted that about 15,000 students on the Island ride its buses on days schools are in session.
The firm has 800 vans and 200 buses. It employs 776 drivers, 406 drivers' assistants and 65 mechanics.
Some districts, including Northport-East Northport and Commack in Suffolk County and Levittown in Nassau, issued statements online regarding contingency plans for students and instructions for parents to drop off or pick up their children.
Several plans included extended supervision for students who need to be dropped off early or stay late. Some districts would require new, signed permission letters and parental sign-out of younger students.
Commack, which exclusively uses Baumann/Acme buses, would stagger dismissal for students at some schools in an effort to manage the significant increase in traffic resulting from the change in its normal transportation plan.
Other districts -- including Bellmore, Freeport, Syosset and Wantagh, all in Nassau County -- issued statements online saying they would not be affected or have found contingency plans for the few students who do ride buses owned by Baumann/Acme.
Long Island's most recent large-scale school bus strike was in 2003, when more than 200 bus drivers and monitors working for Laidlaw Education Services, now Cincinnati-based First Student, stopped working and started picketing over various contract issues. The strike started on a Tuesday in September, and drivers were back at work with a new contract on that Friday.