TORONTO, Nov. 2, 2016 /CNW/ - Unifor, the union representing school bus drivers for both the Toronto public and Catholic school boards, says it is waiting at the table to negotiate with First Student bus company as the strike or lockout deadline approaches.
"Unifor is here to negotiate, but First Student is currently not at the table," said Unifor Local 4268 President Deb Montgomery. "Instead of bargaining, the employer has indicated that it would prefer to focus on shutting down operations."
"The Bargaining Committee will remain here ready and willing to talk about the working conditions needed to settle this contract and avoid future driver shortages."
A strike or lockout deadline has been set for 12:01 a.m. Thursday, November 3.
"The union is looking for recognition of the important work and responsibilities taken on by school bus drivers, day in and day out," said Unifor Assistant to the National Secretary-Treasurer Jenny Ahn. "Our members cannot continue to have hours of work each week go unpaid and unrecognized. Currently, it pays more to deliver pizza then it does to deliver children safely and soundly to school."
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.
"Our drivers have daily interaction with the children in their care, they are a vital part of the community and they deserve respect," said Unifor National Representative Len Poirier.
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."
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: please contact Unifor Communications National Representative Stuart Laidlaw at Stuart.Laidlaw@Unifor.org or (cell) 647-385-4054, or Unifor Communications National Representative Kathleen O'Keefe at Kathleen.OKeefe@unifor.org or (cell) 416-896-3303.