February 28, 2018
PORT ELGIN- Unifor represented school bus drivers covering Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine remain committed to negotiations ahead of a 12:01 a.m. Thursday March 1 strike deadline but have not reached a deal.
“It is a simple and fair demand that these workers should be paid for all of the time put into their jobs instead of being continually asked to work for free,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “It is our hope that a fair agreement can still be reached, but without addressing this substantial concern of all school bus drivers, we may not be able to reach a deal.”
The union anticipates bargaining will continue up until the midnight deadline with the goal of achieving a tentative agreement. The bargaining committees represented by Unifor Local 4268, for both Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine are working together internally to help achieve the objectives that will improve working conditions for all members.
The employer, First Student, has yet to make a fair offer that includes adequate compensation for all of the time that drivers put into their jobs.
Unifor Local 4268 President Debbie Montgomery said that to combat precarity and poor working conditions, provincial change is needed.
“We need increased accountability across the province so the people of Ontario know that their children will receive safe and reliable transportation by trained professional drivers,” said Montgomery. “Improving working conditions is what school bus drivers are demanding in this round of bargaining, but it would also go a long way to fix the current issue of low interest in recruitment. A fair deal will benefit all sides and I hope that is what we achieve today.”
Unifor has previously highlighted the deep-rooted issues that lead to these difficult negotiations including how consortiums and school boards have utilized funds designated for student transportation in other ways. In recent years, school bus operators have highlighted the growing issue of low recruitment levels and high turnover of school bus drivers, leading to shortages.
The strike notice applies to First Student Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine. In addition to school bus routes in these regions the Owen Sound Transit system, the Municipality of Meaford Specialized Transit Service and the Bruce Power shuttle service could see a withdrawal of services if no deal is reached.
Further updates on the status of negotiations will be provided as warranted. For more information on the issues that school bus drivers face visit unifor.org/firststudent.
For more information, please contact Unifor Communications National Representative Sarah McCue at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-458-3307.