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Steering Clear

Steering Clear

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:

Show your support at work and home

Foldable busOne 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.


Steering Clear report on the RFP system

Summary of Steering Clear

See also the Ask the Candidates form:

Ask the Candidates

Campaign Updates

School bus driver shortage `sadly predictable'

9/9/2016 -

A shortage of school bus drivers, which forced parents across Ontario to scramble to get their children to school, is the direct result of a deeply flawed procurement program forced on school boards by the province, Canada's largest drivers' union says.

Massive route flip shows system's instability

2/29/2016 -

The flipping of more than 450 Toronto-area school bus routes this morning shows how unstable a system RFPs are for handing out such contracts, and will only get worse, warns Unifor.

For more information, click here.

Unifor delegation presents to RFP review panel

2/6/2015 -

A Unifor delegation, including school bus local presidents and national representatives, made a formal presentation to an Ontario panel reviewing the request for proposals (RFP) process for handing out school bus contracts. The delegation told the panel, led by former judge Colin Campbell, that RFPs drive down wages and worsen already challenging working conditions in the industry.

For more information, click here.

Steering Clear

9/2/2014 -

Unifor released its report, Steering Clear: Avoiding the RFP Trap, looking at the Request for Proposals process and its impact on working conditions, abandoned bus routes and transperency in school boards. A copy of the report was sent to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Education Minister Liz Sandals, urging them to take immediate action.

For a copy of the letter see:

Letter to the Premier