TORONTO – Keeping children, education workers and the community safe when some students return to class this week starts with the buses that provide transport to Ontario schools, says Canada’s top school bus driver union.
“Keeping schools safe for students, staff, and for their families when they return home, means full protections for all involved - from the time students board the bus, until the time they get home,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias says.
While classes for most students have been delayed until at least January 17, special needs classes are still set to restart on January 6, with many getting to school by bus.
Unifor represents 1,700 school bus drivers at several major bus companies across Ontario, and is the top advocate for drivers and passengers in a Canada.
With in-person classes for special needs students set to resume as the highly transmittable Omicron variant surges, drivers and bus monitors are demanding access to the same N-95 masks that the province is working to provide to teachers.
Debbie Montgomery, President of Unifor Local 4268 representing many school bus drivers, said drivers face particular challenges on the job. In addition to access to N95 masks, the union is also calling for province wide safety regulations that include access to regular testing.
“School bus drivers and monitors work in a confined space where viruses are spread easily. You can’t keep schools safe without keeping buses safe,” she said.
Unifor also expressed concern about the announcement that Ontario will no longer report COVID-19 case numbers at schools and child-care centres.
“Sweeping the numbers of students that contract COVID-19 under the rug increases the risks to both students and the community,” said Montgomery. “Transparency in reporting is needed to ensure that resources can be applied where proven outbreaks are active.”
Information about the union's response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/covid19.
To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype or FaceTime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at @email or 416-896-3303 (cell).