TORONTO, May 21, 2015 /CNW/ - Unifor has ratified a new contract with First Student school bus company, serving the Bluewater District School Board along the Lake Huron shoreline, averting a strike due to start today.
"We are happy to have reached this deal," said Unifor Staff Representative Len Poirier. "We were able to make improvements, despite a bidding process for school bus contracts in this province that makes such negotiations difficult."
The 65 school bus drivers, members of Unifor Local 4268, ratified the deal just hours before the midnight strike deadline. The drivers serve schools in the Port Elgin and Kincardine and shuttle workers between Port Elgin and Kincardine for shift changes at the Bruce Power nuclear plant.
The three-year deal provides for wage increases of 2 per cent, 2 per cent and 1.5 per cent, retroactive to September 1, 2014, as well as several improvements to contract language.
Meanwhile, Local 4268 also served notice to First Student of a possible strike beginning this Sunday by 110 drivers serving schools in the Owen Sound and Wiarton areas, as well as city bus drivers in Owen Sound.
Bargaining in the sector has been made more difficult due to the province's Request for Proposals (RFP) process for handing out school bus contracts, which has put added pressure put on operators to keep compensation levels low to win new routes.
Unifor has called on the Ontario government to review the RFP process. In a report released at the start of the school year, Unifor said RFPs have caused a race to the bottom on compensation, and abandoned bus routes.
To see Unifor's complete report on the school bus industry, Steering Clear, its recommendations, and Unifor's deputations to a provincial panel looking at the RFP process, go to Unifor.org/schoolbuscampaign.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers, including 22,000 in road transportation, and is the province's largest school bus workers' union. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.