On the Picket Line

Quebec bus drivers strike for better wages, conditions

By Philippe Tessier
March 20, 2023

QUEBEC CITY — School bus drivers from union locals B.R.-CSN (Confederation of National Trade Unions) and Tremblay & Paradis-CSN who are on strike met together at the Club Social Victoria here for a solidarity lunch Feb. 24. Their strike against two bus companies began eight days earlier. They’re demanding a wage increase and hiring.

Two CSN school bus driver locals in the Terrebonne suburb of Montreal have won an agreement that includes wage raises of 30% in the first year. The fight for better wages and conditions across Quebec has been going on since 2008.

“An important point of this struggle and our demands is respect for the worker,” Helene Thibault, president of the Tremblay & Paradis-CSN union, told the Militant. “The relationship with our employer is abominable and they do not respect us as individuals.”

One example, she said, was how the union had to fight to split one route into two at the beginning of the school year. The students were late to school, and the driver was late for her second job.

Also, if they are paid to drive 20 to 36 students back and forth on a split schedule, they’re faced with responsibilities beyond just driving. They have to manage hyperactive children and adolescents as well as those with attention-deficit disorder or autism spectrum disorder, additional work for which they aren’t paid. The drivers are demanding to be compensated for the actual time they have to work, including these additional duties.

While the private school transport companies they work for received between 15% and 30% bonuses on their contracts with the school boards during the pandemic, drivers didn’t receive any corresponding wage increase.

Parents of students have expressed solidarity with the drivers, despite the inconvenience the strike causes. Thibault said that the strikers all wanted to see the students again and return to work, and that “they don’t strike for the fun of it, but it’s the only solution.”

Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union and Teamsters union who came from Montreal to express solidarity were warmly welcomed at the meeting.