Bus drivers poised to strike if deal not reached this week



School bus drivers in Kincardine could be on strike next week if a deal is not reached with First Student Canada.


Unifor Local 4268 representing school bus drivers in Ontario has served First Student Canada with a strike notice effective as of 12:01 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday).


“Negotiations are continuing and it is our hope that a fair settlement can still be reached as we are fully aware of the key service that drivers provide to school communities,” Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi said in a media release. “It’s clear however that low wages and the resulting driver shortages are chronic problems that must be addressed in the Ontario system.”


The strike notice applies to First Student Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine. In addition to school bus routes in these regions, the Owen Sound Transit system and the Bruce Power shuttle service could see a withdrawal of services if no deal is reached. The union is obligated to issue 72-hours strike notice but has opted to issue almost twice that to ensure parents, students and users of these systems have as much time as possible to prepare alternate arrangements.


“School bus drivers deserve to be paid in accordance with the responsibilities of the job,” said Debbie Montgomery, President of Unifor Local 4268. “These workers have been kept at the bottom of the professional driver pay scale with lesser working conditions for too long and that has to be fixed if we want to maintain quality drivers.”


The drivers, more than 60 of whom serve the Kincardine and Port Elgin region, have been in a legal strike position since Dec. 10, 2017, and negotiations have been ongoing over the past three months. Unifor is also negotiating on behalf of members in the Bowmanville region but those drivers are not included in the current strike notice.


The union says it will continue to negotiate with First Student until the March 1 strike deadline with the goal of obtaining a fair contract and will provide updates on the status of negotiations as warranted. For more information, visit www.unifor.org/schoolbus.