Tentative deal reached with school bus operators in central Ontario: STSCO

STSCO has reached a new agreement with school bus operators in central Ontario. The Canadian Press/Lars Hagberg

Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario (STSCO) has reached a tentative deal with school bus operators serving Peterborough and the surrounding area just days before the start of the new school year.

On Wednesday morning, STSCO announced a tentative agreement had been reached with its private transportation providers, which serve three school boards in Peterborough city and county, Northumberland County and Clarington. The contractors bus more than 26,000 students to and from school.

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“As a result, there will be normal bus service for students on the first day of school,” STSCO wrote in a tweet Wednesday morning.

STSCO serves the MonAvenir Catholic School Board, the Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board and the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board.

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“School bus drivers play an important role in the educational system, and they do an excellent, professional job in transporting students safely to and from school,” Joel Sloggett, chief administrative officer of STSCO, said Wednesday morning. “We’re very pleased we’ve been able to reach agreement with our operators with the support of our school boards and local trustees, which will ensure normal bus service for students and parents on Tuesday.”

Chris Harwood of the STSCO Operators’ Association added: “School bus operators have always had a strong relationship with STSCO and its member boards, and we are very happy to have reached an agreement that allows for reliable and efficient student transportation. Our drivers and staff have been working hard to ensure a smooth startup, and we look forward to the first day of school.”

Last Wednesday, Unifor — the union representing contractors First Student and Campeau — issued a statement blaming STSCO and the Ontario government for “drawn-out negotiations.” The two contractors represent more than 350 school bus drivers.

“Unlike the students that our drivers serve, it’s clear the Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario (STSCO) and the Ford government have not learned their lesson. Despite warnings and past failures, service for thousands of students may once again be compromised,” Unifor Ontario regional director Naureen Rizvi said on Aug. 21.

“Typically, at this point, drivers would be preparing for their assigned routes by attending startup meetings and doing ‘dry runs’ to review student pickup locations and conduct safety reviews,” said Debbie Montgomery, president of Unifor Local 4268.

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“Instead, STSCO has failed to sign the required contracts with the regular transportation providers, leaving drivers in limbo and parents preparing for the start of the school year without knowing which bus carrier or driver will be transporting their children.”

Unifor has yet to comment on the tentative agreement.

READ MORE: Central Ontario school bus drivers stage protests for job security

In late May, bus drivers from the Greater Toronto Area rallied outside STSCO headquarters in Peterborough over “constant contract flipping.”

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