TORONTO, May 14, 2015 /CNW/ - After months of negotiations, Unifor has served formal strike notice to the First Student school bus company that its drivers serving the Bluewater District School Board and the Bruce Power plant will go on strike next Thursday if no deal is reached before then.
"It is difficult to bargain in this sector, but we must ensure that this is more than a minimum wage job. Retention is already a huge problem in this industry," said Unifor Staff Representative Len Poirier.
Unifor Local 4268 represents 65 school bus drivers serving schools in the Port Elgin and Kincardine areas along the Lake Huron shoreline, and also shuttle workers between Port Elgin and Kincardine for shift changes at the Bruce Power nuclear generating plant.
The core issues at this location are scheduling and outstanding monetary issues. The drivers' collective agreements with First Student expired last August, before the start of the current school year
"School Bus drivers fulfill a very important roll in a student's school day, and have great responsibilities to perform under very tight time restraints and pressures," Poirier said.
Provincial government policy has made bargaining in the sector more difficult because of the added pressure put on operators to keep compensation levels low to win new routes.
Unifor has called on the Ontario government to reform the current Request for Proposal (RFP) process for handing out school bus contracts. In a report released at the start of the school year, Unifor said the RFP process has led to a race to the bottom on compensation, and abandoned bus routes.
To see Unifor's complete report, Steering Clear, and recommendations, as well as Unifor's deputations to a provincial panel examining the RFP process, go to Unifor.org/schoolbuscampaign.
Talks continue between Unifor and First Student for school bus drivers in Owen Sound-Wiarton, Bowmanville and Thornhill, as well as with city transit drivers in Owen Sound.
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.