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Bus Strike Still Looms; Sick-Out Slows Service – QNS.com

Bus Strike Still Looms; Sick-Out Slows Service

Bus drivers are poised to strike this week to protest delays in the transfer process from private companies to the MTA that has left them without a contract for two years.
Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 1181 and 1179 voted over the weekend to authorize a strike, and drivers for Command Bus Lines staged a sick-out as union leaders met with city officials Tuesday.
"Weve suggested all along that the city was not ready. They have not done a good job with the transfer," said Jamie VanBramer, a spokesman for the bus companies. He said that with the transfer looming, private companies have said they cannot negotiate new union contracts with the drivers.
Meanwhile, drivers have also been prevented from negotiating a contract with the city until the transfer takes place. Drivers are concerned they will lose certain benefits and guarantees once the transfer happens.
The private bus lines are currently subsidized by the city, but their private owners have complained that the funding is not enough, preventing them from repairing buses and buying new replacements.
The private lines serve a total of 400,000 riders in Queens. Cable-news outlet NY1 reported that the Command sick-out affected an estimated 5,000 riders, and a Green Line strike would affect an additional 65,000 riders.
Waiting on Queens Boulevard for a Green Line bus to take him to school on Tuesday morning, 14-year-old Pablo Merlo said of a potential strike, "That would be bad. It already takes 40 minutes for the bus to come."
The transfer, originally scheduled for last summer, missed a December 4 deadline after Mayor Bloomberg agreed to let the transfer begin in stages. The new schedule calls for the MTA to take over Liberty Lines Express on January 15, Queens Surface on February 26, New York Bus Service on March 26, and Green, Command, Jamaica and Triboro Coach buses on April 30.

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