The North Star


Quebec School Transport Strike

Quebec School Bus Drivers are Fighting and Winning Better Work Conditions

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Since October 2023, Quebec's school bus drivers have been getting more and more active. Hundreds of workers from several of the province's unions have gone on strike, resulting in significant improvements in working conditions and wage increases, often in excess of 50%. 

Their anger stems, among other things, from a decision by Quebec's CAQ government in February 2023. It approved the injection of $112 million into school transport companies, ostensibly aimed at improving services and meeting the urgent needs of transport companies and their drivers, notably through wage increases.

This decision was taken against a backdrop of deteriorating working conditions, which had induced driver shortages and route cancellations in record numbers. Instead of utilizing these funds as intended, however, transport companies took a different route.

A large part of the funds were pocketed by bosses, leaving drivers struggling to make ends meet on salaries of $15 to $17 an hour during a period of staggering inflation. The CEO of Sogesco, Quebec's largest private transportation company, took a $114 907 pay raise at the start of 2023.

Following the lead of other unionized bus drivers in the province (such as Teamsters-affiliated school bus drivers in the Outaouais and Quebec City regions who back in 2023 won pay increases of up to 67% over 6 years), drivers in the Montreal and Drummondville regions began struggling against stubborn bosses since earlier this year, voting 90 and 96% respectively in favour of adopting pressure tactics and strike mandates.

The members of Montreal's Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs des Autobus Idéal-CSN (STTAI-CSN) held a 2-week strike in April and, on May 9th, voted 88% in favour of a tentative agreement. This agreement wins STTAI-CSN drivers a 31.5 to 58% salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2023, with a 45 to 74% salary increase over the next 5 years (as well as other necessary additions such as additional paid sick days and remuneration during break periods).

In the Drummondville region, the Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs des Autobus Voltigeurs–CSN have been on strike since April 8th after adopting a strike mandate on January 29th with 96% in favour.

Drivers in this region are the lowest paid in Quebec and launched a strike after extensive negotiations saw bosses offering no more than a 15% increase, even after a provincial conciliator was involved in negotiations.

“We are very proud to have supported this exemplary struggle by union members. Their new working conditions have set the bar for hundreds of other drivers across the province who are currently fighting for what is rightfully theirs,” says Stéphanie Gratton, Acting President of the Fédération des employées et employés de services publics-CSN (FEESP-CSN) in a press release on the STTAI-CSN's victory.

"It's high time that the hard work they put in every school day was recognized with meaningful wages," adds Gratton. 

For his part, Bertrand Guibord, General Secretary of the CSN's Metropolitain Montreal central council, said that “when we fight to improve our working and living conditions, we do so with our hearts and with the conviction of a just cause. Throughout their negotiations and their actions, members have proudly carried their convictions linked to the dignity of the work of school bus drivers."

"We share their satisfaction, and we're convinced that their contribution to this struggle represents a step forward for everyone,” concludes Guibord.

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