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Winnipeg School Division says bus drivers could strike first day back to school

The Winnipeg School Division is warning parents its bus drivers will be in a legal position to strike as of Sept. 8.
The Winnipeg School Division is warning parents its bus drivers will be in a legal position to strike as of Sept. 8. Derek Putz / Global News

Winnipeg’s largest school division is warning parents its bus drivers could be on strike the same day school is scheduled to start next week.

In a release Wednesday the Winnipeg School Division (WSD) said the union representing school bus drivers has served notice to proceed to a legal strike position as of Sept. 8.

Read more: Winnipeg School Division bus drivers delay strike vote amid coronavirus pandemic

The union and the school division have been bargaining since October 2019 after the drivers’ contracts expired in June of last year.

In early March, 71 UFCW 832 bus drivers voted 100 per cent in favour of a strike mandate, but the union delayed a strike deadline for its members later that month amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The union, which represents roughly 95 bus drivers from the division, said it had resumed bargaining for a single day with the division in mid-July, but members ultimately voted against a final offer from the division.

“Bus drivers have the important job of making sure our kids are looked after as they get to and from school; they deserve a fair deal,” UFCW Local 832 secretary-treasurer Bea Bruske said at the time.

Read more: Winnipeg divisions working on school bus solutions before classes begin

“Unless the school division adjusts their bargaining position and comes to the table with a fair offer, then parents will not be able to rely on the bus service when schools reopen.”

On Wednesday the WSD said a strike would impact roughly 2,300 students across the division.

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In the event of a strike, the division says service will continue for students who are transported by wheelchair transportation services. It says parents whose children would be impacted by a strike will receive a letter from their school to advise them of the situation.

“Families are asked to make alternative arrangements for their child(ren) to get safely to and from school, and to report any absences in the usual manner,” the division said in a release, advising parents to check its website for the latest updates.

Read more: Manitoba students get ready to wear masks for the school year

The news comes as divisions are working on finalizing plans on how to get students safely to school amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Under provincial health orders, there are new capacity and physical-distancing restrictions on school buses — and those limitations mean it’s likely more buses or more runs will be needed.

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