Strike action threatened by 500 Toronto school bus drivers

A school bus is pictured in Toronto on Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Rachel Verbin

School bus drivers that serve special needs students at Toronto schools could strike next week if negotiations stall.

Drivers at Stock Transportation voted to support strike action if the company is unable to reach a tentative agreement by 12:01 a.m. on May 6. The last scheduled day of negotiations is April 27.

The union said drivers want “fair wages, guaranteed minimum hours and safety on the job.”

“We can confirm that we are in the process of good faith negotiations with Unifor representatives, and we will continue to meet and work on a mutual resolution before the May 6th deadline,” Edward Flavin, vice president of external communications for Stock Transportation, told Global News.

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The 500 drivers who could strike are represented by Unifor Local 4268 and predominantly provide transport services for children with additional needs at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).

Stock Transportation said Unifor represents staff at its Scarborough location, which serves around 455 routes. Its other Toronto location, with 300 routes, would be unimpacted by any strike.

Toronto school boards said the strike would impact around 2,839 students from across the TCDSB and 3,064 students in the TDSB, with the majority of schools served east of Yonge Street.

“We are hopeful that an agreement between the two parties can be reached soon to avoid any service disruption that would negatively impact our students and families,” TDSB and TCDSB said in a joint statement to Global News.

“We will soon be contacting potentially impacted families to ensure they are aware of the possible strike.”

The boards said parents will receive a letter from their school advising them about the situation.

“In the event of a strike, families are encouraged 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 boards said.

The union said they also serve students at the Catholic French board and private schools.

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Unifor is the largest private sector union in Canada and represents 315,000 workers, including at Global News.

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The union represents school bus drivers across Ontario, with only the 500 drivers who work for Stock Transportation considering strike action.

“This is an industry that continues to struggle with recruitment and retention, yet companies still refuse to improve working conditions to keep trained drivers on the road,” Unifor Local 4268 president Debbie Montgomery said.

Unifor said that “some or all” of those who rely on its drivers could see disruption if a deal is not reached by next Friday.

— With files from Gabby Rodrigues

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