School bus strike in 11th week with no end in sight

Click to play video: 'Quebec’s Transco bus strike has no end in sight'
Quebec’s Transco bus strike has no end in sight
While teachers in Quebec are back in the classroom, thousands of bus drivers remain off the job. And it looks like there is little relief in sight for parents. As Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports, negotiations seem to have hit a wall – Jan 16, 2024

While teachers in Quebec are back in the classroom, thousands of bus drivers remain parked on the picket line.

Veering into the 11th week of an unlimited strike, negotiations between employer Transco and the CSN union have stalled, according both parties.

Forced to find an alternative way to school, some 18,000 students on the Island of Montreal are affected by the strike.

According to the union, salary remains the biggest sticking point.

Transco said its latest offer surpasses what it intended to put forth when contract talks began.

“This is a number that is way over what has been negotiated in the public sector in Quebec. So what is happening?” said Transco spokesperson Claude Breton.

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The transportation company is offering 20 per cent for the first year and 33 per cent for the next six years.

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With talks going nowhere, Transco is suggesting a third party be seated at the table to help push for a resolution.

“It’s very difficult to understand what’s happening. What is blocking? It’s very tough to have a good discussion at the table with the union. We think the next step is to go to arbitration and get back on the buses as of this week,” Breton said.

That’s wishful thinking, according to bus drivers who say they are in the strike for the long haul.

“The union is like a train: it’s got one selector on its transmission and it’s going forward not backward,” said Marcel Boudreau, union spokesperson.

According to the education ministry, in 2022-2023, the provincial government increased transportation contracts by $130 million, which is equivalent to a 16.5 per cent raise. An additional $76.5 million is earmarked for the 2023-2024 school year.

Drivers argue that money is not trickling down, leaving many struggling to make ends meet.

“We have drivers having to go to food banks in order to be able to survive. Were not even making $25,000 a year,” Boudreau said.

“We know what we are worth. We know what we deserve. We know that the money is there.”

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There is some relief on the way for parents. School boards and services centres affected by the strike will soon be sending out reimbursement payments.

Families can expect to see $7 per child, for every strike day retroactive to Oct. 31.

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