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Montreal school bus drivers end strike

Bus drivers have signed a new agreement with their employer, Autobus Transco. (Rémi Tremblay/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Bus drivers have signed a new agreement with their employer, Autobus Transco. (Rémi Tremblay/Radio-Canada - image credit)

School bus drivers at Autobus Transco in Montreal will be back on the road Monday, after accepting an offer from a conciliator, said Claude Breton, a spokesperson for the company, Thursday.

The deal includes a 43 per cent pay increase over the six-year term of the new collective agreement, retroactive to July 2022. A typical salary could rise from about $600 per week to just over $900 by the end of the agreement in 2028.

The union, which represents 350 school bus drivers, has been on an unlimited strike since Oct. 31, 2023, affecting about 15,000 students.

Just over 69 per cent of union members voted in favour of the settlement.

Josée Dubé, the president of the federation of unionized public transport workers, says the union is happy to get back to work though the deal isn't perfect.

"Not all the expectations were met, but what we can certainly say is we got the employer to go further than it wanted to," she said.

After several months of striking, Dubé said it's possible that there will be changes to some bus routes, though such changes should be minimal. Routes will be discussed on Friday before the drivers return to work on Monday.

The Lester B. Pearson School Board, one of the school boards with students bused by Autobus Transco drivers, called the news a "positive development."

However, it also said it remains to be determined if all regular bus service will return to normal next week.

While Breton called the salary increase "substantial," Barry Eidlin, an associate professor of sociology at McGill University with a focus on labour policy, says the drivers won't be "living large" with increases that, at the end of the day, try to make up for decades of stagnant wages.

According to Eidlin, the company dragged its feet on a deal that could have been put on paper long ago.

"What we're seeing here is this mismatch between what workers are demanding now in 2024 and what employers are used to giving at the bargaining table," he said, adding that workers are no longer content with the same kind of marginal wage increases they would accept in the past.