NEW YORK — The New York Times reports that with Mayor Bill De Blasio’s support, the City Council is planning to vote this week to give $42 million to school bus companies to increase the salaries of experienced drivers who were forced to take pay cuts after the former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg awarded a series of new bus contracts in the last years of his administration. De Blasio characterized the move as a safety initiative, according to the newspaper, echoing arguments the union made when it went on strike 18 months ago that less experienced drivers put children at risk.
The new contracts cut hundreds of millions of dollars from a $1.1 billion school transportation budget. The savings came in part from removing a requirement for school bus companies to guarantee jobs to experienced drivers when bidding. According to The New York Times, Bloomberg had said that a court decision prevented him from maintaining the seniority protections, a ruling the main drivers’ union said he had misinterpreted.
School bus drivers went back to work one month after striking, facing large pay cuts. Before the new contracts took effect, a typical company paid a maximum salary of $47,000 to the most senior drivers and $31,000 for new drivers, according to the city, the newspaper reports. Now, salaries for all drivers are approximately $24,000. A spokesman for the union told the newspaper that benefit levels have also been cut.
Paying bus companies extra for more experienced drivers may be the only way for the city to help them, since the court ruling that prohibited seniority protections in contracts still stands, according to The New York Times. The Council has asked the State Legislature to pass a law aimed at overriding that ruling, but has not been successful so far.
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