Tonight, at a general meeting in Montreal, 98% of Transco-CSN (STTT-CSN) union members rejected the latest employer offer and 98% voted by secret ballot in favour to renew the strike mandate. This mandate – to be carried out when deemed necessary – may be implemented on January 30th and 31st if no agreement between parties is reached by then.
“It is with no light heart that we choose to strike, especially knowing it will affect thousands of students that we know well and take care of every school day. But since our last general meeting, too little progress has been made. Tonight’s two votes reaffirm our categorical refusal to let the employer impose wage conditions that impoverish us. Our salaries do not reflect our skills and responsibilities, yet First Student’s American bosses, who own Transco, have no intention of improving our working conditions,” said Carole Laplante, STTT-CSN President.
To date, the employer offers a wage freeze for the first two years, which impoverishes workers. For the remaining three years of the future five-year agreement, the employer offers to pay 50% of the CPI in salary increases, which is only half of what the school board pays them for this purpose.
Several non-monetary clauses with no significant impact have already been settled at the beginning of bargaining, but other more important ones remain outstanding. On October 30th, a conciliator was appointed by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The labour dispute could affect nearly 15,000 students spread over more than 300 school pathways.
“The fight of the STTT-CSN is a good representation of issues in the school transportation sector, where there is a large number of low-wage earners who receive an annual income of less than $20,000 and a weekly salary of less than $500. This is why we are conducting a campaign calling for enhanced, dedicated and closed budget envelopes to improve wages and working conditions. The Quebec government must address the wage injustice that has persisted in our sector for too long,” adds Stephen P. Gauley, STS President of the Fédération des employées et employés de services publics (FEESP–CSN).
“Carriers who are only thinking about maximizing their profit margins on the backs of their employees face a situation that could well cause them serious problems. We know that there is a serious recruitment and retention issue directly related to poor working conditions in school transportation. For us, there is no quick fix except to offer a decent salary that recognizes the importance of their work,” says Stéphanie Gratton, FEESP Vice-President and STS Policy Officer.
Let us remember that more than 521,000 students, that is, more than 60 percent of all elementary and secondary students, board school buses every day.
The STTT-CSN has nearly 330 members in charge of some 300 school bus routes. The STS brings together over 3,100 workers from the Fédération des employées et employés de services publics–CSN, which has more than 400 affiliated unions, representing about 55,000 union members in public and parapublic services.
Founded in 1921, the CSN is a trade union federation that works towards a cohesive, democratic, just, fair and sustainable society. To this end, the CSN takes part in many debates that concern Quebec society. The CSN represents more than 300,000 workers on a sectoral or professional basis within eight federations, as well as regionally via 13 central councils, primarily in the province of Quebec.