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  • Hannah Scott-Talib

WQSB levies bus companies with hefty fines

In an effort to get buses back on the road and students back to class, the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) started fining the bus companies whose employees are currently on strike $36,000 per week.

With these fines, there may be increased pressure towards the bus companies to resolve the strike, which began on May 1, and alleviate the struggle parents are having transporting their kids to and from school.

Miranda Dyck, a mother of four children who each attend two separate WQSB schools, told the Low Down that this strike is having a huge impact on her.

“It’s taking so much time away from my family,” she said. Dyck works in Ottawa, and as she explained, some days she spends three extra hours driving — taking into account the commute to both drop off and pick up her children at school. Her children, who attend schools in Wakefield and Low, don’t all start class at the same time, which further complicates Dyck’s situation. Additionally, she expressed that she is finding it difficult to figure out carpooling arrangements with four children and a car that is not large enough to accommodate more passengers.

Still, Dyck stated that she is sympathetic towards parents who do not have any means to bring their children in.

“If I didn’t have access to a vehicle, my kids wouldn’t be able to get to school,” she said. She went on to state that with gas prices and the overall cost of living these days, it’s unfair that many parents are now having to choose between going to work or allowing their children the right to education.

“Our kids have a right to go to school, it’s been so impacted,” said Dyck. Yet she also expressed understanding for the bus drivers’ cause and their right to protest. “I recognize that having a fair wage and a living wage is, or should be, a human right.”

Teamsters Local 106 union rep Denis Ouellette did not return the Low Down’s calls by press time, but told the paper previously that employees want inflation protection and a wage increase that is more than the five per cent offered by the companies.

According to Mike Dubeau, director general of the WQSB, there is still no confirmed end date for the strike. “As far as I know, the local negotiations with the union aren’t taking place [yet],” Dubeau told the Low Down this week. The bus drivers have been on strike since May 1.

However, the school board made the decision this week to apply fines of up to $36,000 per week to Lasalle and Bigras Transport, the main bus companies whose workers are striking. Dubeau added in a statement that these funds will be used to “add additional supervision and to supplement daycare staff where needed.”

In the meantime, Dyck will continue to protest in her own way — by visiting the bus drivers at the picket line and writing to the bus companies to inform them of the impact this strike is having on her family.

With no end to the strike in sight, parents of children attending WQSB schools will have to keep finding alternate ways to get them to school.

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