NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- New Haven school buses hit the streets Friday morning, a day after a brief strike left some parents confused about how their children were getting home.
Working without a contract, First Student bus drivers threatened to leave parents in a lurch and their children stranded at school on Thursday.
Although a strike has been averted for now, anxious parents want to know if there's a plan in place if drivers decide to hit the picket line.
"They said that all the buses wouldn't be running, and then, when I got to the school the buses were running," said parent David Jones.
It was an auspicious sunrise over those buses as they rolled Friday morning in New Haven, but it almost didn't happen.
"Yesterday, what happened was, we showed up ready to negotiate, and management walked away," said CSEA Union Spokesman Ben Phillips.
First Student bus drivers have been without a contract since June 30.
"Currently, their starting wage is lower than a living wage for the city of New Haven," Phillips said.
The Union also says safety practices are unacceptable for drivers and children alike.
"We have heard complaints of buses going in for repairs, and coming back in the same condition they went in in," Phillips explained.
But there is optimism.
"After we walked around in front of the bus yard for a while they did come back and agreed to meet with us that evening, and when they came back they showed that they were willing to negotiate in good faith," Phillips said.
A spokeswoman from First Student, based in Cincinnati, told News 8 Friday morning, she shares that favorable outlook. The sides have agreed to meet again Monday and Tuesday, but no guarantees against a strike after that.
"We're not anticipating one at the moment," Phillips said, "but all options are still on the table."
It is encouraging that both sides are optimistic, but when News 8 asked city officials Friday morning, "What if," they said there's no specific contingency plan in place, they simply expect the buses to keep rolling.
"Now you're at work thinking about your child and you're not concentrating on what you really need to be doing because you're wondering, 'How's my child getting home? Are they safe,'" said parent Myra Cruz.
"I have to pick my kid up," Jones said. "It costs me more gas, but hey, I gotta do it."
First Student and the bus driver's union are also in contract negotiations with drivers in West Hartford and Shelton.
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