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City applauds pay raise for school bus drivers

By Kelsey Durham

City officials celebrated the recent passage of a resolution signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week that will raise the pay of school bus drivers across New York City.

De Blasio signed the bill Aug. 28, a week after the City Council approved it Aug. 21, that will provide $42 million in grant money to go toward raising wages of bus drivers whose pay was previously cut because of financial difficulties.

The one-year grant program will offer 2014-15 wage hikes to eligible drivers, whom de Blasio said were those working for one of the 16 companies currently in contract with the city or that just ended a contract in June.

The employees must also prove they are now earning an hourly wage that is lower than what they received the last time they worked for a bus contractor.

“Our city’s school bus drivers and employees work tirelessly throughout the school year to keep our children safe from harm,” de Blasio said. “This legislation ensures that New York City students and their parents can count on uninterrupted and reliable bus service. This bill will offer an essential measure of security to professionals who have dedicated their careers to safeguarding our children during their daily commute.”

De Blasio said the cuts in wages led to the most experienced bus drivers being pushed out of their positions in hopes of finding better paying jobs, but the new legislation will ensure that the seasoned drivers will stay behind the wheel to safely transport children to and from school.

“It offers to these hardworking individuals who serve our children a measure of financial security and it gives the people who have safeguarded our children every day a chance to have some decency in their own economic circumstances,” the mayor said at an Aug. 28 news conference. “So it’s of very great importance to the whole city.”

City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), who sponsored the bill, applauded the passage of the legislation and said it would contribute to giving students the best educational experience possible while they are on buses at the beginning and end of their day.

He said it was the first step toward fixing what he called an “irresponsible decision” by the Bloomberg administration to cut funding to bus drivers.

“The value of this legislation cannot be overestimated, and I am very proud that the City Council and the mayor have put this plan into action,” Miller said. “It has the potential to save thousands of jobs for school bus workers, keeping the most experienced and well-trained on the job in order to provide safe transportation for our children.”

De Blasio said the grants to increase wages will be administered through the city Department of Small Business Services and will end at the conclusion of the 2014-15 school year, but the mayor said the temporary fix would give the city time to come up with a more long-term solution to keep experienced bus drivers in their positions with substantial pay.

“Our most experienced school bus drivers know best how to keep our students safe and they should be utilized and rewarded for their knowledge and expertise,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who serves as chairman of the Council’s Education Committee. “This one-year, stop-gap legislation will make the drivers and matrons whole until the state Legislature can act, and our accompanying resolution urges the Legislature to do just that.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurh‌am@cn‌gloca‌l.com.

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