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Last-minute deal averts school bus strike in Durham Region

Last Updated Nov 30, 2017 at 1:23 pm EST

File photo of a school bus. CITYNEWS.

A school bus strike that could have impacted about 10,000 students at 103 schools in parts of Durham Region and east-end Toronto was averted late Wednesday night.

Unifor and First Student Canada signed a tentative agreement for 260 drivers just ahead of strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Details will be released after a ratification vote to be held in the coming days.

Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s Ontario regional director, said unpaid hours and low wages were keys issues at the bargaining table.

Under the previous contract, drivers are only paid from the point they pick up the first student to the moment they drop off the last child off and were unpaid for time in between for travelling from home to the first pick-up or performing vehicle maintenance.

“When you count up all the hours worked and the pay they receive, they are working for less than minimum wage,” Rizvi said in a statement.

“It’s a full time commitment for part time pay.”

Unifor Local 4268 president Debbie Montgomery said the unpaid hours makes it difficult for bus companies to recruit new drivers, which leads to shortages like one that affected Toronto school boards last year.

“The best way to recruit new drivers is to treat them fairly,” Montgomery said.

“We love driving buses, and deserve to be paid for all the hours we work. That’s only fair.”

A walkout would have impacted students within the Durham Public District School Board and at the Durham Catholic School Board in Ajax, Brock, Oshawa, Pickering, Scugog, Uxbridge and Whitby plus a number of students in east-end Toronto.