By Janee Law
While a major school bus company and its union workers met with a federal mediator Wednesday in an attempt to settle a labor dispute, the Northport and Commack school districts have set up contingency plans in the event of a strike Thursday to mitigate what would likely be a chaotic commute to school for hundreds of students.
The Baumann & Sons Buses Inc. and its affiliate ACME Corp. met with Teamsters Local 1205 at the union’s headquarters at in Farmingdale to reach a deal on a new labor contract, but there was no resolution as of deadline.
The union said the workers want a pay raise.
If the company and its workers don’t come to an agreement, a strike could begin today, said Timothy Lynch, president of Teamsters Local 1205. The possible strike, he said, involves 800 buses and 1,200 workers across the Island, affecting the transportation of thousands of children.
Baumann/ACME provides a majority of the bus transportation in the Northport and Commack districts. Students whose routes don’t run under Baumann/ACME will not be impacted.
Both districts have developed arrival and dismissal procedures that would allow parents to drop off and pick up their children.
In a statement posted to its website, Commack said the strike would result in an additional 200-300 cars picking up students at its primary schools; 400-600 at its intermediate and between 1,500 and 2,000 at its secondary schools.
To avoid congestion, both districts recommended parents work together to establish carpooling for their children, and to inform schools if students will be arriving 30 minutes late.
As an extra precaution, both Northport and Commack arranged to have their security team and Suffolk police officers on site to assist with traffic flow.
Students will not be penalized if they arrive to school late, and both districts urged parents to drive safely.
Students in Commack whose bus routes are not affected will receive a phone call from the district, while Northport students can see if their route is affected by going to the district’s website (northport.k12.ny.us).
Robert Banzer, superintendent of Northport school district, said Tuesday he held out hope that a strike would be averted.
“We are hopeful that the two sides will be able to resolve their differences without any interruption to services.”