TORONTO, Nov. 1, 2016 /CNW/ - School bus drivers for both the Toronto public and Catholic school boards continue contract talks with First Student Bus Company ahead of a strike or lockout deadline Thursday.
"In a year when both boards were hit with driver shortages, it is more important than ever that we reach a deal that will help to both recruit and retain drivers in this city," said Unifor Local 4268 President Deb Montgomery.
"Drivers want to be behind the wheel, helping children get their school day started, and home at the end of the day."
Montgomery said she remains optimistic that a deal can be reached before the strike or lockout deadline of 12:01a.m. Thursday, November 3.
"We are looking for recognition of the important work and responsibilities taken on by drivers, day in and day out," Montgomery said.
"We cannot continue to have hours a week go unpaid and unrecognized. All hours worked need to be compensated, with these hours EI eligible."
More than 2,600 students across the public and Catholic school boards in Toronto were left stranded when school resumed this year. The boards have had to hire taxis, SUVs from limousine companies and even fly in drivers from Alberta to cover the routes.
"It broke my heart to see all those children stranded," Montgomery said. "The best way to make sure that doesn't happen again is to ensure that drivers can afford to keep the job."
The province's request for proposals process for handing out school bus contracts has encouraged a race to the bottom on driver compensation, making it harder to recruit drivers to the industry, and to retain them once hired. Unifor has led the effort to reform the procurement system.
Ontario's Ombudsman is currently conducting a review of the driver shortage in Toronto this year. Unifor will be contributing to that review.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers, including 22,000 in road transportation. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.
For further information: Unifor Communications National Representative Stuart Laidlaw at Stuart.Laidlaw@Unifor.org or (cell) 647-385-4054