Thousands of New York City parents scrambled Monday to plan alternative rides to school for their children after the main bus drivers' union said it would strike Wednesday in a dispute over job protections.
The Department of Education distributed thousands of MetroCards to schools, scheduled automated phone calls to parents and prepared letters alerting them of the planned strike, which would affect about 152,000 students.
"The city is prepared for a strike," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, which represents about 8,800 drivers and matrons, said his union wanted the city to require private bus companies to hire drivers based on seniority, but city officials said it would be illegal to include such a provision in new contracts.
The city and union officials convened dueling Manhattan news conferences on Monday. "This is about safety and experience," union President Michael Cordiello said. "This is not a decision we have arrived at lightly, but an action we must take."
Mr. Bloomberg disagreed and said the city hoped to save money by rebidding the contracts worth $1.1 billion. The city said it saved $95 million on five-year, $475 million contracts when it rebid the prekindergarten transportation contracts in 2011.
"This isn't about safety," Mr. Bloomberg said. "It's about job protections the city cannot legally offer."
Parents said it was tough enough juggling regular bus transportation for children who go to school in different boroughs. Now many might have to plot out routes on mass transit or, for those who have the option, take time off work to accompany their children.