Strike begins for western Quebec school bus drivers
Almost 300 school bus drivers in the Outaouais are now on strike, cancelling bus routes at dozens of schools across the region.
Denis Ouellette, a union representative for Teamsters Canada members affiliated with Local 106, said the bus companies that employ the drivers are "not serious about this bargaining process."
The main issues are better wages and working conditions, Ouellette said Sunday. But the two sides haven't met to negotiate since early April, he added.
"They have no intention of coming back to the bargaining table with us, so they're letting us go on strike tomorrow morning," Ouellette said.
School bus drivers often work less than 20 hours a week, and many of their workdays are split shifts, making it "hard to earn a living," he said.
Roughly 200 drivers hit the picket line Monday, with another 100 or so joining them on Wednesday.
Several school boards affected
The strike includes school bus drivers from Autobus Campeau, Autobus Lasalle and Bigras Transport.
Together they provide transportation to several western Quebec schools and boards, including:
Western Québec School Board
Centre de services scolaire des Draveurs
Centre de services scolaire des Portages-de-l'Outaouais
Centre de services scolaire des Hauts-Bois-de-l'Outaouais
Collège St-Joseph and Collège St-Alexandre, private schools in Gatineau
Radio-Canada reached out to those employers Sunday, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
The Western Québec School Board said in a letter to parents Friday that 10 of its schools will be affected by the strike.
The Centre de services scolaire des Draveurs said 31 of its schools will have transportation disrupted.
The Centre de services scolaire des Portages-de-l'Outaouais said in an email Sunday that many routes have been already cancelled and others may be cancelled in the future.
Important to working parents
Maurice Gendreau, a father of two from Val-des-Monts, Que., said a strike would make it hard for working parents to get their children to and from school.
"School bus service is definitely very helpful and important. It allows people to get to work earlier. It allows more people to work, for that matter," he said.
Gendreau said he'll have to leave 30 to 45 minutes earlier to get his son to high school, then drive his daughter to elementary school, and head to Ottawa for work.
He said he'd also have to pick his son up at 2 p.m., resume his work remotely, get his daughter around 4 p.m. and then finish off his workday.
"The strike for the bus service will certainly affect us," he said.
In a Facebook post, Gatineau police said they expected traffic to rise significantly on streets near and around local schools Monday.
They said there would be an increased police presence near affected schools to keep students safe. They also urged parents to consider other options like carpooling, biking or walking.