Burlington, Ont. – Halton Region school bus drivers are seeking a fair deal to prevent a strike that will impact over 4,000 students attending schools in Halton District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, Le conseil scolaire de district Catholique du Centre-Sud and Le conseil scolaire du district du Centre Sud-Ouest. The 136 bus drivers and mechanics, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are facing a lockout or strike as early as May 27 at 12:01 am.
“We’ve been trying to reach a fair deal for the past eight months,” said Dorothy Willichuk, president of CUPE 2177. “Unfortunately First Student Canada is putting themselves first by refusing to address the issue of fair wages – that’s why we are facing a strike deadline.”
The bus drivers work on average 5 hours a day and earn about $50 a day. High staff turnover is the norm because of low wages, a lack of full-time hours and the absence of benefits or a pension. “Parents and students expect to see their regular drivers who are familiar with their routes and where students should be picked up and dropped off. Continuity is impossible when you have high staff turnover,” said Willichuk. The Ontario Ministry of Education recognized this problem and allocated $10 million for wage enhancements for all school bus drivers in 2008.
“In spite of the additional provincial funding to resolve the low wage issue, our members have not seen a single penny,” said Barbara Wilker-Frey, CUPE national representative. “Where’s that money and why has it not flowed down to front-line workers?”
“First Student Canada should be doing everything possible to address the issue of low wages for their workers,” continued Wilker-Frey. “But instead they’ve pushed us to a strike situation that will only hurt the very students that our members help every day.”
“We’re urging the provincial government and the school trustees that hand out contracts to companies like First Student Canada, to get involved and make sure corporations who are funded by public tax dollars are treating their staff fairly and paying them a fair living wage,” said Willichuk.
The workers voted 81 per cent in favour of a strike if a fair deal is not reached with their employer. Their last contract expired on August 31, 2008. Mediation talks are scheduled for Thursday, May 21.
For further information, please contact:
Dorothy Willichuk Barbara Wilker Frey James Chai
CUPE 2177 President CUPE National Rep. CUPE Communications
905-335-5956 647-236-2777 416-292-3999