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School bus drivers protest system that lowers safety and creates driver shortages

May 28, 2019 - 12:00 AM

PETERBOROUGH – School bus drivers gathered in protest today to decry a contract award system that has led to lower vehicle safety standards, ongoing driver shortages and chaos for students, parents and school boards across the province.

“It is a vicious cycle that constantly pits bus operators to undercut contract bids with nowhere to take from other than vehicle maintenance and labour costs,” said Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi. “Drivers are here today to warn of the danger of aging fleets and less qualified drivers - the direct result of enduring years of this broken process.”

Bus drivers from across the Greater Toronto Area, including many that have recently received layoff notices, travelled to Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario (STSCO) headquarters in Peterborough, Ontario to call for an end to the constant contract flipping that has resulted in decreased standards and instability in the industry.

“The actions of school bus consortiums, including STSCO, have led to job insecurity as drivers are forced to reapply for their routes, often at a lower pay rate, as contracts are shuffled,” said Debbie Montgomery, President of Unifor Local 4268.  “As a result we have an ongoing driver shortage with inexperienced and undertrained drivers being scheduled to transport kids while bus operators are simultaneously stretching out the road life of the buses to bring down costs.”

As Ontario’s leading school bus driver union Unifor has long advocated for changes to the administration of the province’s school bus industry, including transparency in the consortia bidding process and measures to end the precarious nature of driver employment.

“There is something seriously wrong when more than 130 experienced school bus drivers receive layoff notices while there is a province-wide shortage of trained drivers,” said Unifor Director of Road Transportation Len Poirier. “The Ford government must take immediate action to fix Ontario’s student transportation system to end contract flipping and protect drivers wages and rights by ensuring that contracts follow them if operators are switched.”

For more information please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org  or 416-896-3303 (cell).