Parents battle ‘lack of communication’ amid bus strike affecting 2,300 kids

More than a quarter of the 2020 school year is on the books and bus drivers in the Winnipeg School Division have yet to get behind the wheel.

Drivers have been on the picket line since the first day of school after voting 100 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.

Around 2,300 students have been left without bus service for 10 weeks, as 90 drivers continue to stay away from the job.

“It seems like it’s going to be for an indefinite period of time,” said parent Brent Johnson, while dropping off his kids at École Lansdowne on Tuesday morning.

Brent Johnson (left) and Derek Dexter visiting outside Ecole Landsdowne School after dropping their kids off on Tuesday morning.
Brent Johnson (left) and Derek Dexter visiting outside Ecole Landsdowne School after dropping their kids off on Tuesday morning. Marek Tkach / Global News

Johnson told Global News that parents haven’t received an update from the Winnipeg School Division (WSD) since September.

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“There’s been no change, no action, no communication and the issue drags on,” he said.

Read more: Stalemate continues between Winnipeg School Division, strike-ready bus drivers

The union representing the drivers on strike applied for alternative dispute resolution last week, meaning the mediator will review terms for a potential new deal.

“At this point in time, we have seen no indication from the employer that they’re willing to even sit down to have any further discussions on this,” said Bea Bruske, secretary-treasurer for UCFW Local 832.

Bruske says compensation and additional safety measures are the two main sticking points.

She also noted that “some non-monetary language changes” have been agreed upon but the two sides remain far apart.

“We believe that there is a wage increase that’s necessary, especially given the current circumstances with COVID adding additional duties and responsibilities to workers who are driving kids to and from school.”

In an email to Global News on Monday afternoon, a school division representative wrote, “There is nothing new to report on the WSD Bus Driver strike.”

Read more: Bus strike begins on first day of school in Winnipeg School Division

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Derek Dexter, who has children in Grades 4 and 6 at École Lansdowne, says the increased traffic in front of schools, which is due to more parents driving their kids to school, is deeply concerning.

“My daughter is a crossing guard patrol here. She says the increase in traffic here is phenomenal. It’s a huge safety issue.”

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Over half of the students at École Lansdowne typically rely on bus service.

“At the rate they’re going right now, it’s going to take a kid getting injured,” Dexter said. “It seems like that’s the only thing that’s going to make them take this seriously.”

Bus drivers in the division have been without a collective bargaining agreement since June 2019.

The WSD has offered drivers raises of 0 per cent, 0.75 per cent and 1 per cent over the next four years, as mandated by the province.

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