TORONTO, May 23, 2015 /CNW/ - Unifor members have ratified a new contract with First Student school bus company, serving schools in the Owen Sound and Wiarton areas, as well as city bus drivers in Owen Sound, averting a strike due to start Sunday.
"We are to have a deal that addresses the drivers' top concerns," said Unifor Staff Representative Len Poirier.
"Despite a bidding process for school bus contracts in this province that makes such negotiations difficult, we were able to reach a deal we can recommend to our members."
The 110 members of Unifor Local 4268, serving students in the Bluewater District School Board in Owen Sound and Wiarton, as well as the municipal bus service in the city of Owen Sound, ratified their new contract Friday evening, ahead of the 12:01am Sunday strike deadline.
The deal provides for wage increases of between 5.5 per cent and 8.5 per cent over three years, and other improvements.
Meanwhile, Local 4268 continues to negotiate with First Student on behalf of school bus drivers in Bowmanville and Thornhill.
Bargaining in the sector has been made difficult by 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.