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School Bus Drivers, Matrons Back On The Road

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TWC News: School Bus Drivers, Matrons Back On The Road
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More than a month after going on strike, thousands of school bus drivers, matrons and mechanics returned to work Wednesday, while parents of students affected by the job action breathed a sigh of relief.

Wednesday was the first day of school since the strike came to an end Friday.

Amalgamated Transit Union 1181 said members would return after the likely Democratic candidates for mayor promised to revisit the employee protection issue that led to the strike if they are elected.

Each pledged that, if elected, he or she will support job security for the drivers and matrons, something Mayor Michael Bloomberg said was illegal to do in new bus contracts with the city.

At the Pioneer depot on Arthur Kill Road in Charleston, Staten Island, returning drivers and matrons had mixed reactions as to whether the strike made an impact on negotiations going forward.

"Well now, when the next mayor comes in, they will see what happen if they don't negotiate. So, do they want to see another five-week strike? I don't think so," said one driver.

"I wish we would have settled the job security act," said another driver.

"Only thing the mayor did was make us stronger, and the unions of New York are stronger because of this," noted a third driver.

Meanwhile, parents and students got back into their pre-strike morning routines.

The job action forced many to rely on public transportation, and in some areas, carpools were necessary to bridge the transit gap.

"It's been pretty rough, getting up, getting these kids in the car," said one Queens parent.

Drivers and students in Brooklyn were happy that the strike was over and drivers were back to work.

"Yeah, I'm happy to be back over here," said Tony Aleynikov, a bus driver. "It's so nice. I miss my kids. I miss my job."

"I'm very happy," said Leah Ross, a sixth grader at Mark Twain Intermediate School 239. "No more wondering what to do and how to get home."

Five thousand of the nearly 8,000 routes serving the public school system were affected by the strike.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that there could be a few bumps in the road Wednesday but he said he expected normal service.

Education officials spent several days calling parents to make sure they were aware service resumes Wednesday.

According to education officials, 88.5 percent of city students attended school Wednesday, while 82.6 percent of special needs students were in attendance.

While students are normally off this week, February break was shortened this school so the city could make up for school days lost in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. DOE officials said that fact was reflected in Wednesday's citywide attendance rate.

Officials said the city saved about $80 million by not paying for bus service during the strike, but spent over $20 million on alternative transportation for students.

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