On the Picket Line

Bus drivers strike at Autobus Venise in fight for higher wages

By Alexandre Jacob
August 28, 2023

SALABERRY-DE VALLEYFIELD, Quebec — Unifor Local 700 bus drivers working for Autobus Venise commemorated four months on strike here Aug. 3. They are fighting against inadequate and patronizing boss proposals. “We want to negotiate, but we won’t negotiate for nothing,” said Sylvain Brisson, president of the 50-member Autobus Venise union local.

The strikers want a raise to 690 Canadian dollars ($513) for 30 hours of work starting now, and a three-year contract. This amount would be a CA$23 an hour wage, as opposed to the CA$19.50 they get now. The drivers work split shifts, one driving students to school and the other taking them home.

The bosses have offered a four-year contract, at CA$650 a week the first year, CA$678 the second, and the last two years left open pending terms of a new deal with local school bosses.

Other area bus drivers have recently won substantial raises. Autobus Matanais, in the Gaspesie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine, agreed to raise wages 30% to 65% higher over a six-year contract. Autobus de l’Energie in Shawinigan agreed to raise wages from CA$24.91 to CA$28.32 starting July 1. Drivers at both companies had been on strike since March. Both groups of drivers are members of the CSN union.

Their examples show significant gains can be won through determined strike actions backed by labor solidarity.

“Getting insight on the struggle here was eye opening, to say the least,” said Jourdain Dumont, one of four Canadian National conductors who joined the Unifor picket line Aug. 3. “The fight to make a livable wage is a scenario we’re all too familiar with. We have the strength in numbers and can accomplish more when we stand together.”

“On June 26, the company hired scabs to run the buses,” Brisson said. But the Labor’s Administrative Tribunal ruled against this move Aug. 3, putting a stop to the scabs.

Autobus Venise is owned by Sogesco, which runs 32 bus and transportation companies throughout Quebec. The bosses hope its size will intimidate the workers. The pickets are up from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday.