The Ontario government is rolling out a new bidding system for school bus contracts in Ontario that is causing havoc among bus drivers. This new Request for Proposals (RFP) system has forced large operators to give up routes, driven small, independent operators out of business and left dedicated drivers heading into summer wondering if they can return to their buses and their students in the fall.
This new bidding system led to chaos at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, when thousands of students in both the public and Catholic school boards in Toronto were left stranded because there weren't enough drivers for all the routes. Shortages and problems were reported across the province.
Even when there is a driver, too many students get on the bus in September hoping to find the driver they had got to know and trust the previous year, only to find a stranger.
Unifor is the largest union in the school bus industry and has led efforts to address the RFP issue, including an in-depth report, Steering Clear: Avoiding the RFP Trap, and meeting regularly with industry and Ontario government officials.
Bus maintenance and repair work is being neglected as operators strive to keep costs down. A wave of job losses is sweeping across the province, having already affected hundreds of union and non-union workers in the past two years alone.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Bus drivers are dedicated to their work, but find themselves the fodder in a bidding system that drives down wages and puts their jobs at risk. School bus drivers are already the lowest paid transit workers in Ontario – even though they are responsible for carrying our children, our most precious cargo.
Drivers do this work for the love of the kids, and not just for the money. But that doesn’t justify the added pain this RFP system is putting them through.
Unifor is concerned about the lasting impacts this system is having on both school bus drivers and children:
- SAFETY: Contract bidding will force operators to compete on lowering costs, further delaying much needed bus maintenance work (including proper bus sanitization) and repair – putting the health and safety ofour kids at risk;
- WORK STANDARDS: As competition increases, operators will be forced to squeeze labour costs. That means persistently low wages and more unpaid work time for drivers;
- LABOUR RIGHTS: If unionized workers lose their jobs, gaps in federal and provincial labour law means they also lose their collective agreement if re-hired by a new firm.
How you can help
Sign the Petition
Send a message to the Ontario government to let them know you are concerned about the impact the RFP is having on school buses in this province by signing the online petition. Just click here. There’s even a spot where you can add your own comments, if you wish.
Talk to your local MPP
Contact your local Member of Provincial Parliament and let him or her know your concerns. Find your local MPP here.
Join the mailing list
Email Unifor Local 4268 President Deb Montgomery to join the campaign mailing list. You’ll receive regular updates and information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Show your support at work and home
One great way to show your support for school bus drivers at home or at work is to make Unifor's own foldable school bus, like the one shown here. Just download the pattern here, follow the instructions included on the pattern, and make your own Steering Clear school bus.
See also the Ask the Candidates form: