The North Star


Quebec school transport strike

School bus drivers stand firm against stubborn bosses

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More than a year after the Quebec government gave $112 million to numerous school bus companies to improve their services, some of them, including Autobus Idéal and Autobus Voltigeurs, are stubbornly insisting on pocketing the amounts intended for workers.

On March 11 in Montreal, members of the Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs des Autobus Idéal-CSN (STTAI-CSN) voted 90% in favor of pressure tactics, up to and including a discontinuous 14-day strike, to obtain the money they were owed from the injected funds. The union is the latest to join the struggle against the school transport bosses that began last autumn, alongside the Drummondville-based Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs des Autobus Voltigeurs-CSN (STTAV-CSN), whose workers voted 96% in favor of adopting a seven-day strike mandate on January 29.

Pascal Bastarache, president of Cœur-du-Québec-CSN's central council, reports that the situation is unacceptable for the 38 Autobus Voltigeurs drivers: "The salary currently paid by Autobus Voltigeurs, owned by the Sogesco group, is among the lowest in the school transport sector. Its latest offer amounts to a 15% increase for some, but a pay cut for others. Yet the employer has received a more than 20% increase in their contracts with the Centre de service scolaire (CSS) since 2021-2022, and its employees are currently among the lowest paid in Quebec."

"While the average weekly salary in 2022 before the funding injection was $625, drivers are currently at $442." Seeking to rectify the injustice, the STTAV-CSN finally sought accreditation on January 31, 2023.

On the other hand, Josée Dubé, president of the school transportation sector of the Fédération des employées et employés de services publics-CSN, tells us about the contempt facing the 165 unionized employees of Autobus Idéal. "The employer has recently put forth ridiculous offers that clearly display its refusal to pay forward any of the money it received from the government to improve its workers' wages. Autobus Idéal employees are among the lowest paid in Montreal and it's time to change that."

Since the government funds were allocated in February 2023, Minister Drainville has had to intervene publicly to argue that a significant portion of the amount was granted to improve the sector's inadequate wages, calling on employers to pay out their "fair share", even though the allocation came with no stipulations directly requiring them to do so.

Union members of STTAI-CSN and STTAV-CSN are hoping to attain the new wage standard set in the sector by the other unions that made up the movement for fair pay, which has been gaining steam since June 2022 when certain collective agreements expired. While some of them have achieved significant gains of up to 25% retroactive to the 2022-2023 period, many others used their lobbying skills to achieve spectacular improvements in their benefits and wages - including, in Quebec City, up to 67% growth over six years. School transport workers as a whole were among Quebec's lowest-paid workers before this movement.

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