Unifor school bus drivers encouraged by Auditor-General report


TORONTO, Dec. 2, 2015 /CNW/ - Ontario's largest school bus driver's union is encouraged by many of the recommendations issued today by the Auditor-General that focus on improvements to service quality, ensuring government accountability and better tracking the impact of driver turnover on safety.

Unifor Ontario Regional Director Katha Fortier says the Auditor General's report on school transportation services raises important questions about service quality delivered under the current Request-for-Proposal (RFP), competitive-bidding, system – questions the union has raised as part of its provincial campaign, entitled Steering Clear: Avoiding the RFP Trap.

"In some instances, the Auditor-General has found that insufficient attention is being paid to the quality of service for school transit services and too much attention on low prices," Fortier said.

Unifor Local 4268 President, and school bus driver, Debbie Montgomery faults the lowest-cost-wins approach to contract bidding on weaker safety standards, poverty-level wages, high turnover and low morale that workers in this industry continue to experience.

"The RFP system has caused a great deal of hardship on drivers, the folks who are responsible for delivering this vital community service safely every school day," Montgomery said.

In addition to the Auditor's recommendation that the Ministry of Education standardize quality and safety standards for bid evaluations, Unifor is encouraged by the recommendation to better track driver turnover rates, along with accident and incident reports, to help determine the correlation between turnover and safety.

The Auditor also rebuked the Ministry of Education for not verifying whether a previously issued school bus driver "wage enhancement" was ever spent for its intended purpose. In today's report, the Auditor recommended that the Ministry update its funding formula and ensure any future funding initiatives, like the wage enhancement, are spent appropriately.

To read Unifor's report on the Ontario school bus sector, visit: www.unifor.org/schoolbuscampaign

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.  Unifor represents approximately 1,800 school bus drivers and mechanics in the province of Ontario.