Boston school buses running despite attempt by small group to block other drivers

A small group of Boston school bus drivers attempted to block other drivers from boarding their buses today, but the effort failed, and buses appear to be running on normal schedules, a School Department spokesman said. Amid the unrest, a bus driver union official was ordered off the bus yard.

It was the second morning that buses made it on the road after a one-day surprise strike on Tuesday left children stranded at home and at bus stops. Buses also appeared to roll this afternoon without any problems.

“We are happy that our drivers have yet again showed that they want to work and are committed to safe, on-time service,” said School Department spokesman Lee McGuire.

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The school system was bracing for a potentially rough morning after the union announced Wednesday night that Veolia Corp., the private contractor that runs the bus service, had placed two labor leaders on leave. The leaders were not identified.

The attempted disruption to service occurred at the Readville yard in Hyde Park, around 6 a.m. A small group of drivers tried to physically block others from boarding their buses and leaving the yard, McGuire said.

“Other drivers ignored this attempt and pushed past it, and the attempt to incite was over almost before it began,” McGuire said.

The School Department is investigating the possibility that a school bus was used to transport dozens of union workers from the city’s other bus yards to Readville to participate in a demonstration, a city official said.

By mid-morning, Veolia had ordered one union official to leave the Readville yard: Steve Kirschbaum, the outspoken chairman of the bus union’s grievance committee.

“It’s a personnel issue,” said Veolia spokeswoman Valerie Michael. “He needed to be off the property, and the union was aware of that.”

Michael declined to say whether Kirschbaum was one of the two union leaders that the company had placed on leave.

On Wednesday, two Menino administration officials identified Kirschbaum, as well as the union’s vice president, Steve Gillis, as the instigators of Tuesday’s strike. They also accused the two of intimidating and bullying other drivers into going along with the strike.

Kirschbaum could not be reached immediately for comment.

A day earlier, a union attorney, defended Kirschbaum and Gillis, saying they are respected among members and “have served this union and their members of this union for many dozens of years.”

The vast majority of buses this morning arrived to their destinations on time, with 91.7 percent dropping students at school before the opening bell.

With the labor dispute remaining volatile, the School Department is urging families to keep backup transportation plans in place for the next few days.

It remains unclear when the labor dispute will be resolved. The union and Veolia spent hours at a Quincy hotel Wednesday attempting to resolve a myriad of issues, such as new morning check-in procedures and using GPS bus tracking to calculate pay and overtime rates. The union also demanded amnesty for all members involved in Tuesday’s strike.

Another meeting has not been scheduled yet, Michael said. Both sides, she said, are researching issues that were raised Wednesday.

The school bus drivers make on average $50,000 annually.

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