Talks to resume Thursday to prevent school bus strike on Long Island

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (WABC) -- On Long Island, a potential school bus strike is looming over dozens of school districts.

Talks will resume Thursday afternoon with representatives of a school bus company and members of a union representing drivers. After negotiating all night Wednesday, they remain deadlocked.

If a strike happens, it would affect students in Middle Country, Commack and Northport school districts.

About 1,200 drivers at one of the largest school bus operators are deadlocked over a wage dispute. Most of them are getting $13 an hour or less; the union also is demanding more medical benefits and pensions for its members. Federal mediators began meeting with union members and school bus company officials Wednesday afternoon.

"I think it's going to be an inconvenience, a real inconvenience. I drive my kids to and from school every day and I think there's going to be too many parents on the roads, and I hope that they can come to an agreement," said Karen Helfman, a parent.

So do hundreds of other parents on Long Island. They are keeping their fingers crossed that Baumman & Sons bus company and Teamsters Local 1205 will reach an agreement Wednesday night.

If not, it's plan B for tons of parents

The bus union is demanding higher wages, more medical benefits and pensions for its 1,200 members.

Negotiations with the bus company since May have not proved fruitful.

"Many of our own members have children on many of these buses and the last thing we want to see is a strike. But these bus companies who are multi-millionaires are more interested in taking care of their thoroughbred horses in Pennsylvania than providing a dignified wage for the people who do this very important work," said Timothy Lynch, of Teamsters Local 1205.

Some BOCES programs and special needs students would also be affected.

They say the union is asking for increases in pay in some cases as high as 34 percent.

In a letter to its customers, parents, and the public, the owners of Baumann & Sons Inc. bus company wrote: "The union is attempting to leverage the company's very existence to force an above market settlement for its members. We ask all of you not to be a part of such an unreasonable plan."

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