School bus strike putting a strain on parents
WINNIPEG -- Students in Manitoba have been back at school for a couple of weeks now, but for more than 2,000 students in the Winnipeg School Division, getting to and from school has been an ongoing challenge.
Winnipeg School Division bus drivers have been on strike since September 8, leaving many parents scrambling to get their kids to school.
Brent Johnson's two sons both go to École Lansdowne School. He said his boys were supposed to take the school bus, but now he drives them.
"Having the additional responsibility now of providing transportation both to and from school, it's quite disruptive to the workday," said Johnson.
Due to the Strike, Johnson takes his lunch break in the afternoon, picks up his kids, and works the rest of the day from home.
He said parents are a bystander of negotiations between the division and the drivers.
"We're definitely kind of caught in a crossfire here, and there's very little parents can do."
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 832, which represents over 90 Winnipeg School Division bus drivers, met with the division on Friday.
In a statement to CTV News, UFCW Local 832 said:
"The government mandate, which was outlined in their letter to the Winnipeg School Division, continues to offer no wage or other monetary adjustments to address any of the union's outstanding proposals."
"There was little or no attempt on behalf of the school division to counter or acknowledge any of the union's concerns."
The union said the negotiations' main issue is Bill-28, which was passed in 2017 by the PC Government but was never proclaimed by law. The bill called for a two-year wage freeze for public sector workers, followed by minimal increases in the third and fourth years.
Although a Manitoba Judge ruled against the bill in June 2020, the mandate being given to the division by the PC Government has a lot of the same criteria.
Derek Dexter, vice president of the École Lansdowne School Parent Council, said it has been a strain to get his two kids to and from school without the school bus.
He said some parents have had no choice but to leave their kids at home.
"They don't have cars or their work schedules don't allow them to be able to bring their kids to school," said Dexter. "So, the kids are missing out on that social interaction and school time again this fall."
Johnson said people deserve to be paid a fair wage, and he doesn't believe it should have come down to a strike.
"There was plenty of time for there to be a conversation and negotiation between the two parties while the schools were shut down and over the summer."
The Winnipeg School Division said they have multiple options in its contingency plan for students who can't get to school due to the bus strike.
Before and after school programs are being provided, English schools are being offered to students who take the bus for language programs, and virtual learning is being offered if no other options work.