Replacement workers on duty for the first time since the New York City school bus driver strike began nearly two weeks ago, got an earful from protesting drivers and matrons Tuesday .
"That's my right to yell," said Local 1181 member Maria Law, outside the Staten Island Bus Company's depot, where all day long the chants against the replacement workers were scathing.
Of the 113 routes affected by the strike, 59 were back up and running Tuesday as replacement workers hit the streets just a day after a mediator oversaw talks between both sides. On Monday, striking workers renewed their call for job protection while city officials continued to seek contracts with private bus companies in a quest to control costs they claim are spiraling out of control.
Parents like Jackie Addeo, whose daughter has special needs, questioned the training and experience level of the replacement workers now in charge of getting children to and from school.
"How do I know what your capabilities are and what your temperament is gonna be because you have to have a lot of patience with these kids," Addeo said.
Strikers on the picket line also wondered if the replacement workers were properly trained to do the job.
"These people took a four hour class yesterday, where our matrons go 10 hours for the state, 10 hours for the city, CPR, red cross physical performance, safety classes throughout the year," said Ernest Maione, a Local 1181 shop steward. "This guy did four hours and put them on the bus and said 'it's OK you can go pick up those kids and take them to school.'"
Patrick Cerniglia, general manager of Staten Island Bus Company refuted the claim that the replacement workers had been inadequately trained for the job.
"They're experienced, they are safe, they are trained. It doesn't get any safer than what we did out here today," Cerniglia said.
For one replacement worker who declined to give his name, the stress of crossing the picket line was too much to bear, causing the man to opt for retirement instead.
"A disgrace for the city, for the parents, the workers," said union member William Cox. "I'm afraid for these children."