By Christina Rodriguez
A group of frustrated school bus drivers and escorts who have been without a contract for eight months protested on Tuesday in front their union building in Ozone Park, complaining of a lack of transparency by their union leaders who are negotiating the new contract.
The dissident union members, who call themselves Local 1181 Members for Change, belong to the Amalgamated Transit Union and are among those who bus hundreds of children to New York City Public Schools and school trips
“They won’t tell us what’s on the table,” said Reina Martinez, a member for 15 years. “They won’t say anything. The last contract, negotiations lasted for almost a year.”
The group marched around the front of the building shouting rhythmic pleas: “What do we need? Contract! When do we want it? Now!”
The protestors said that they have the lowest pensions for bus drivers in the city, no medical coverage for retirement, and receive no retroactive pay.
“If you retire before you are ready for Medicare, you have nothing,” said Dina Nero, who has been an escort for the past 15 years.
“I know guys who are still driving in their late 70′s,” said John Eadicicco, a bus driver for 20 years. “It’s a shame.”
School bus drivers put in $38.50 weekly towards their pension for 40 weeks of the year while management contributes $74.40. After 25 years of service, that equals $1275 a month compared to $2650 a month in pensions for city bus drivers.
Escorts complain that they get much less though they work just as many hours and days as the school bus drivers.
“I deal with a lot,” said Dina Nero. “Some of the children are difficult. We’re out in all kinds of weather. And now we have the union who’s supposed to stand besides us and we still have no contract.”
Union leaders were not available for comment.