School bus drivers in West Nipissing are threatening to walk off the job next week if they don’t get the same pay as their Sudbury counterparts. They also claim they are not being compensated for the extra work that is required due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A media release Wednesday says Alouette Bus Lines is paying them $1.70 less an hour compared to Landmark’s sister company Northway in Sudbury.
Six-year driver Julie Larabie, a representative of the group, told BayToday the additional responsibilities due to COVID-19 sanitation regulations while also receiving lower pay than other drivers motivate their demands.
“I believe we deserve better because we all do the same work across the board of Ontario,” Larabie said, adding she is proud that so many of the drivers are willing to stand up for what is right.
There are 57 signatures of drivers on their petition to management out of 71 West Nipissing drivers with Alouette, she said.
The joint statement goes into more detail.
“We are only getting paid $16 per hour, or $15.50 for van drivers transporting equally precious cargo,” it says, “while everything else related to preparing for proper training is either left unpaid or at minimum wage.”
The extra time it takes to sanitize the bus is also not covered, they said.
“On that note, we are also denied our yearly pay increase of one percent for reasons left unclear. Some were told it was due to buying excessive amounts of cleaning products or adequate amounts of PPE,” it reads. “If this was true, then what do we do with the known fact that the NPSSTS covers those charges?”
“As it stands, we school bus drivers almost unanimously agree that we are grossly underpaid for the job we do with all of its requirements that fall under the job description.
“As of today, (Wednesday), we are standing together against our company and fighting for what we rightfully deserve,” it reads, adding the company has seven days to agree to the terms or face a walkout.
“We will be walking out, and with that, no school transportation vehicles will be running and students will not be transported to school throughout the district.”
BayToday left a request for comment with Northway Bus Lines staff in Sudbury early Thursday morning for general manager Greg Stock. This story will be updated when there is more information available.