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Réseau de transport de Longueuil (RTL) bus drivers took a good look at their new labour contract before giving it their stamp of approval at a general assembly held on International Workers’ Day. In a secret ballot, 84 per cent of some 475 drivers voted in favour of the agreement in principle reached on April 19. The collective agreement will cover the seven-year period from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2016, as per the employer’s request.

The bus drivers have made some concessions on the flexibility front in order to improve service for commuters. In return, drivers will see improvements to sick days, long-term disability insurance, as well as to night and weekend bonuses. The employer also agrees to deposit a lump sum of $1.1 million to help retirees preserve their purchasing power.

This latest vote marks the end of a rare debate over the lack of washrooms for bus drivers along their routes. Chemical toilets will be installed temporarily until construction of permanent washrooms in the RTL terminals is complete, which could take another three years.

The agreement also includes a salary increase of more than three per cent per year, which adds up to a total of 21.5 per cent over seven years. Retroactive payments dating back to January 1, 2010 will be made upon ratification in May.

“It’s a fantastic day to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of both our members and RTL users. We have managed to secure good working conditions for our drivers up until 2017. This is a solid foundation for quality transportation service,” said Michel Robidoux, president of the RTL bus drivers’ union (CUPE 3333).

The RTL’s 700 or so bus drivers have been without a labour contract since December 31, 2009. On January 9, 99 per cent of them voted in favour of using pressure tactics when deemed necessary. But on April 19, a tentative agreement was reached in time to cancel the one-day strike set for April 28.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents some 6,500 members in Quebec’s public transportation sector.