Winnipeg School Division bus drivers will walk the picket line Tuesday morning: union

By | September 7, 2020

Bus drivers in the Winnipeg School Division will be hitting the picket line as of Tuesday, CBC News has confirmed.

The school division warned parents last week that there was a high likelihood of a strike on Sept. 8 — the day students go back to school — after the division and the union that represents its school bus drivers could not agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.

“To date the [Winnipeg] School Division has not presented a new offer or amended position, therefore the strike will go ahead on Tuesday morning,” Bea Bruske, secretary treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 832, said in a statement.

“We feel for the families who will be impacted as there is no bus driver who wouldn’t rather be driving students to school.”

CBC News contacted the Winnipeg School Division (WSD) earlier Monday morning to see if there were any developments. A spokesperson said negotiations ended about two weeks ago and that the school division would know for sure about a strike if they see picket lines Tuesday.

CBC News has reached out to the WSD for comment on the strike, but has not heard back yet.

The province’s largest school division reached an impasse with UFCW Local 832 — which represents 95 Winnipeg School Division bus drivers — over salaries, Chris Broughton, chair of the Winnipeg School Division’s board of trustees, said last week.

The school division offered its bus drivers salaries that he believes are fair, and are within the financial means of the WSD, he said.

Bruske, however, did not believe the final offer was fair because of the increased expectations being put on the school bus drivers this year, such as ensuring all students riding the bus are wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Issue of Bill 28

The union also took issue with the school division’s use of Bill 28 during negotiations

Introduced in 2017, Bill 28 is a piece of provincial legislation that tried to freeze public sector wages for two years once collective agreements expired, before giving a 0.75 per cent pay increase in Year 3, and an increase of one per cent in Year 4.

The legislation, however, was never proclaimed into law, and in June, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench struck down the bill and dubbed it “draconian.” The provincial government has said it will seek to appeal the decision.

“This bill has been ruled as unconstitutional and violates bargaining rights. Bus drivers deserve a fair contract and fair acknowledgement for their work,” Bruske said in a statement Tuesday.

The Winnipeg School Division school bus drivers will be on the picket line, located at the bus depot at the WSD offices, at 7 a.m. Tuesday, a UFCW spokesperson said.

Representatives will be prepared to review and vote on any new terms put forward by the school division tomorrow, the spokesperson said. But if there are no new proposals, then the strike will officially start Wednesday.

The strike will impact about 2,300 students throughout Winnipeg School Division, the division said in a news release last week. 

Parents whose child or children are impacted by the strike will receive a letter from their school about the situation, and families are asked to make alternative arrangements so students get safely to and from school, the WSD said in the release.

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