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First Student Canada Negotiations

Campaign Updates

School bus strike ends

3/23/2018 -

Unifor Local 4268 and First Student Bowmanville have reached a tentative agreement, bringing an end to a three day school bus strike.

“The drivers took a firm stand and as a result were able to reach a deal with First Student that better reflects their true value,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “While this negotiation highlighted the issue of unpaid work the practice remains common in the student transportation sector. Unifor will continue to lead the fight to fix unfair pay structures and other systemic problems in Ontario’s school bus industry.” 

The tentative agreement covers routes in the Durham, Durham Catholic, Kawartha Pine Ridge and the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Boards.

 “Driving a school bus has traditionally been a precarious job but tangible gains are being achieved with every collective agreement that Unifor signs, which is why student transportation is the union’s fastest growing sector,” said Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi. 

Details of the collective agreement will not be released until after the ratification vote, which will take place over the next few days.

“The drivers are truly grateful for the outpouring of support that they received from students, parents and the community during the strike,” said Local 4268 President Debbie Montgomery. “Now they are looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and reuniting with the kids.”

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org  or 416-896-3303 (cell).

Striking bus drivers hold information pickets at schools

3/23/2018 -

Striking school bus drivers conducted information pickets at two Bowmanville schools this morning to provide information and engage directly with parents and students impacted by the work action.

“Parents and other community members are incredibly supportive when they hear that the drivers are on strike because First Student refuses to pay for all of the time spent driving the bus,” said Unifor Ontario Director Naureen Rizvi. “Many are shocked to learn that the person they entrust to transport their kids to school safely is expected to work for free.” 

The main strikers gathered at the First Student Bowmanville location before sending delegations to St. Joseph’s elementary and Bowmanville high school to distribute information flyers.  The drivers received a warm welcome from parents, students and school staff as they explained that unpaid work and low wages were the basis for the job action.

“We understand that this strike is affecting families in our neighbourhoods,” said Unifor Local 4268 President Debbie Montgomery. “The drivers are part of those communities which is why they’re taking the time to speak face-to-face with parents to share the facts.”

To view a photo gallery of this morning’s solidarity actions click here.

First Student Bowmanville Bargaining Update - March 21, 2018

3/22/2018 -

Sisters and Brothers,

Today the company publicly released its final monetary offer, which was refused by your bargaining committee last night. First Student failed to tell the whole story truthfully. This should shock no one.

We are writing today to clarify why your bargaining committee rejected this offer.

Your committee, supported by our National Union, has maintained from the beginning of negotiations that we want drivers to be paid for all hours worked. For years the school bus industry has been taking advantage of drivers and this practice needs to end, as it has in the Whitby, Ajax location. For reasons that are inexplicable, the company will not apply the same principle to our contract that it agreed to at our sister location.

In its proposal the company put forth a wage offer of $17.50 per hour with a three hour guarantee and one hour of miscellaneous time, which amounts to four hours of pay per day. The three hours is considered what they refer to as LIVE TIME and would only include the time from your first pick up to the last drop off. All other time would be miscellaneous.

The union countered with $16.50 per hour for all hours worked and the company refused, saying the costs were in fact greater than paying $17.50 in the structure it proposed. First Student insists that it wants to pay $17.50 per hour in order to have the appearance that it is paying top wages in the industry to attract new drivers. This is nothing but deception and we ought not to be tricked by this shell game.

The increases were not equally offered to every driver. Each driver would receive a different raise. Some would see significant wage increases while others would see their wages frozen because the offer was less than what they make today.

While the company may be technically correct when stating publicly that its offer amounted to a nineteen per cent increase in total compensation those funds would be unfairly distributed. In our final position to management we agreed to take that same amount of money and apply it equally to all drivers and they refused.

Let us not be deterred or fooled by First Students attempt to divide us.

Every working person goes to work expecting to be paid from the time they start to the time they finish. We should not accept any less. We believe our proposal of $16.50 per hour ($2.50 over the legislated minimum wage) is a fair offer that we can build upon going forward as we work to create a better future for all our school bus driver members.

In solidarity,

Your Bargaining Committee

School bus drivers forced out on strike

3/21/2018 -

TORONTO – Unifor Local 4268 says school bus drivers at First Student Bowmanville have been forced out on strike as of at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday March 21.

"For some time now Unifor has led the discussion regarding the unfair treatment of workers who are tasked with carrying our children to and from school,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “To expect that people should only be paid while children are on board the bus is an absurd structure and we will fight to fix it." 

The strike affects routes in the Durham, Durham Catholic, Kawartha Pine Ridge and the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Boards. Community members should visit Student Transportation Services for Central Ontario at www.stsco.ca and Durham Student Transportation Services at www.dsts.on.ca  for school listings and cancellation notices.

“First Student is still refusing to pay for the total time that is spent driving,” said Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi. “Our drivers truly appreciate the support that they’ve received from parents and students in their battle against unpaid work.” 

The drivers have been working without a contract since August 31, 2017 and have been in a legal strike position since December 10, 2017.  Talks between the union and employer broke off shortly before the strike deadline of 12:01 a.m.

For months Unifor has conducted negotiations with First Student with the aim to eliminate the use of unpaid work hours and to improve wages.

“It’s important that our kids get to school safely and that means well trained, responsible drivers,” said Unifor Local 4268 President Debbie Montgomery. “The industry can’t attract and keep quality drivers if they don’t earn a wage that reflects the responsibilities that they have in the performance of their duties.”

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org  or 416-896-3303 (cell).

School bus strike deadline approaches

3/20/2018 -

To view this press release on the web please click here.

TORONTO – Unifor Local 4268 is negotiating with First Student Bowmanville as school bus drivers in the Durham and the Kawartha regions approach a strike deadline at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday March 21.

“Unifor is still at the negotiating table seeking a fair settlement from First Student,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “It’s our hope that a deal can be reached before midnight so that strike action can be averted but the drivers are prepared to take a stand against unpaid time and low wages if need be.”

The strike notice affects routes in the Durham, Durham Catholic, Kawartha Pine Ridge and the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Boards. Community members should visit Student Transportation Services for Central Ontario at www.stsco.ca and Durham Student Transportation Services at www.dsts.on.ca  for school listings and cancellation notices.

The union is obligated to issue 72-hours strike notice but in order to provide additional time for parents and students to make alternate arrangements notice was served on March 15.

“There is a known crisis in the school bus industry as driving jobs have become less and less viable,” said Debbie Montgomery, President of Unifor Local 4268. “As the union for Ontario school bus drivers Unifor has been working to raise standards across the sector by fighting for gains during round-by-round bargaining sessions with First Student so the company is very well aware of what is needed to reach a new contract.”

The drivers have been in a legal strike position since December 10, 2017 and negotiations have been ongoing over the past six months.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org  or 416-896-3303 (cell).

School bus strike averted

3/1/2018 -

March 1, 2018

PORT ELGIN- Unifor, the union representing school bus drivers at First Student Canada in Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine has reached a tentative agreement with the company, averting a strike set to begin Thursday morning.

"This is good news for drivers, and good news for parents," said Debbie Montgomery, President of Unifor Local 4268. "Despite a difficult round of bargaining, the bargaining committees have secured a deal that improves wages and working conditions.”

The bargaining committees, representing members of Unifor Local 4268, will present the deal to members for a vote in the coming days. Full details of the new collective agreement will be released after ratification. Unifor issued a strike notice last Friday, well ahead of the required 72 hours' notice, for 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

The union has previously stated that to combat the precarity and poor working conditions that are rampant in the industry, provincial change is needed.

"If adopted, this agreement will make a positive change for drivers in these communities, but in order to end the driver shortages and low wages seen across Ontario, the province must step up. Unifor has advocated for an increase in funding to the Student Transportation Grant and provincial measures to protect fair wages and job security for school bus drivers," said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications National Representative Sarah McCue at sarah.mccue@unifor.org or 416-458-3307.

Without a fair offer, school bus strike remains on the table

2/28/2018 -

PORT ELGIN- Unifor represented school bus drivers covering Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine remain committed to negotiations ahead of a 12:01 a.m. Thursday March 1 strike deadline but have not reached a deal.

“It is a simple and fair demand that these workers should be paid for all of the time put into their jobs instead of being continually asked to work for free,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “It is our hope that a fair agreement can still be reached, but without addressing this substantial concern of all school bus drivers, we may not be able to reach a deal.”

The union anticipates bargaining will continue up until the midnight deadline with the goal of achieving a tentative agreement. The bargaining committees represented by Unifor Local 4268, for both Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine are working together internally to help achieve the objectives that will improve working conditions for all members.

The employer, First Student, has yet to make a fair offer that includes adequate compensation for all of the time that drivers put into their jobs. 

Unifor Local 4268 President Debbie Montgomery said that to combat precarity and poor working conditions, provincial change is needed.

“We need increased accountability across the province so the people of Ontario know that their children will receive safe and reliable transportation by trained professional drivers,” said Montgomery. “Improving working conditions is what school bus drivers are demanding in this round of bargaining, but it would also go a long way to fix the current issue of low interest in recruitment. A fair deal will benefit all sides and I hope that is what we achieve today.”

Unifor has previously highlighted the deep-rooted issues that lead to these difficult negotiations including how consortiums and school boards have utilized funds designated for student transportation in other ways. In recent years, school bus operators have highlighted the growing issue of low recruitment levels and high turnover of school bus drivers, leading to shortages.

The strike notice applies to First Student Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine. In addition to school bus routes in these regions the Owen Sound Transit system, the Municipality of Meaford Specialized Transit Service and the Bruce Power shuttle service could see a withdrawal of services if no deal is reached.

Further updates on the status of negotiations will be provided as warranted. For more information on the issues that school bus drivers face visit unifor.org/firststudent.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications National Representative Sarah McCue at sarah.mccue@unifor.org or 416-458-3307.

Strike notice served in school bus negotiations

2/23/2018 -

TORONTO – Unifor Local 4268 representing school bus drivers in Ontario has served First Student Canada with a strike notice effective as of 12:01 a.m. on Thursday March 1, 2018.

“Negotiations are continuing and it is our hope that a fair settlement can still be reached as we are fully aware of the key service that drivers provide to school communities,” said Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi. “It’s clear however that low wages and the resulting driver shortages are chronic problems that must be addressed in the Ontario system.”

The strike notice applies to First Student Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine.  In addition to school bus routes in these regions the Owen Sound Transit system and the Bruce Power shuttle service could see a withdrawal of services if no deal is reached.

The union is obligated to issue 72-hours strike notice but has opted to issue almost twice that to ensure parents, students and users of these systems have as much time as possible to prepare alternate arrangements. 

“School bus drivers deserve to be paid in accordance with the responsibilities of the job,” said Debbie Montgomery, President of Unifor Local 4268. “These workers have been kept at the bottom of the professional driver pay scale with lesser working conditions for too long and that has to be fixed if we want to maintain quality drivers.”

The drivers have been in a legal strike position since December 10, 2017 and negotiations have been ongoing over the past three months. Unifor is also negotiating on behalf of members in the Bowmanville region but those drivers are not included in the current strike notice.

Unifor will continue to negotiate with First Student until the March 1 strike deadline with the goal of obtaining a fair contract.  Further updates on the status of negotiations will be provided as warranted.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org  or 416-896-3303 (cell).

Negotiations between Unifor and First Student Canada underway

12/8/2017 -

Negotiations between Unifor and First Student Canada underway

Toronto – Negotiations are currently underway between First Student Canada and Unifor Local 4268, representing school bus drivers in the Bowmanville, Kincardine, Port Elgin, Wiarton and Owen Sound regions.

“We just ratified a collective agreement with First Student drivers in the Durham Region so it’s our goal to build on that success to achieve wage increases and the elimination of unpaid driving hours in these additional regions,” said Debbie Montgomery, President of Unifor Local 4268.

Unifor Local 4268 members will be in a legal strike position as of December 10, 2017, however the union and the company have further bargaining dates set for each of the locations and expect to be in bargaining for the remainder of December and into January, 2018.

No strike votes have been conducted nor has any notice of deadline been communicated to First Student.

Unifor is committed to the bargaining process to reach a deal, but if that is not possible the union will communicate any deadline to students, parents, and the public in advance.

Further updates on the status of negotiations will be provided as warranted.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org  or 416-896-3303 (cell).