Agreement in principle reached for school bus contract negotiations
While stalled negotiations over the past few months prompted concerns about a potential disruption of school bus services at the start of the school year in September, an agreement in principle has now been reached between the Government of Quebec and the Bus Carriers Federation (Fédération des transporteurs par autobus - FTA). According to a press release from the Ministry of Education, the agreement will ensure safe and reliable school bus transportation for all students across the province for the start of the school year.
English language school boards and French language school services across the province must renegotiate transportation contracts with school bus carriers on a regular basis. Over half of the bus contracts across the province expired on June 30. While school boards and service centres are responsible for securing individual contracts with school bus carriers, the Government of Quebec was in negotiations at the provincial level with the FTA in order to reach a general budgetary agreement for school transportation services that would allow for contract negotiations across the province to continue.
An announcement on August 11 from the Western Quebec School Board noted that the government’s previous financial offer was not accepted by the FTA because they found that it did not sufficiently meet an “increase in operational costs” faced by carriers across the province. According to a press release from the Ministry of Education, inflation, rising costs (particularly fuel), labour shortages and service disruptions are among the major factors behind the rise in expenses for bus companies. The Fédération des centres de services scolaires du Québec (FCSSQ), which represents the French-speaking school service Centres in Quebec, noted that the transition to electric bus fleets was another factor in these negotiations. In a press release on August 17, the Ministry of Education said that it had hired a professional negotiator with extensive experience in both public and private labor negotiations to help speed up contract negotiations across the province.
On Friday August 19 the Government of Quebec announced that it had reached an agreement in principle with the FTA that will allow for school boards and school service centres across the province to secure bus service contracts in advance of the school year. While the agreement in principle is a significant step towards ensuring that school transportation will be available in September, school boards and service centres must now finalize contracts with their respective school bus carriers. The president and director of the FTA, Luc Lafrance, said that the federation was pleased with the new agreement, which covers a period of six years, and the FTA’s board of directors will recommend that it be adopted by all members. Further details about the agreement will not be made public until after all school bus service contracts in the province are finalized.