School bus drivers in Montreal are on strike Tuesday and Wednesday after rejecting their latest contract offer.

Drivers notified school boards that they will not work on Tuesday Jan. 30 and Wednesday Jan 31 as a result.

That affects every school board on the island of Montreal as well as students at College Ste. Anne in Lachine, but not every school bus route, since some schools have contracts with two or more companies.

The labour dispute will affect nearly 15,000 students in more than 300 school courses in Montreal. The school boards and the school affected are:

  • Montreal English School Board: 4,224 students on 88 routes;
  • Lester B. Pearson School Board: 2,640 students on 55 routes;
  • Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Board: 3,936 students on 82 routes;
  • Commission scolaire de Montréal: 2,832 students on 59 routes;
  • Collège Saint-Anne, a private institution: 864 students on 18 routes.

The schools will remain open, and board officials have said students who are late to class will not be penalized.

Elementary schools have also made arrangements to provide daycare service before and after school for students, but they are encouraging students to carpool, or for parents to arrange playdates after school.

“We will reluctantly kick off our two-day strike [Tuesday] morning knowing full well that it will have an impact on the thousands of students we meet every morning, students we safely transport to their community and school,” said Carole Laplante, president of the bus drivers’ union STTT–CSN.

Parents were notified last week of the possibility of a strike and most seemed sympathetic to the drivers.

"It slows you down a bit but you have to understand both sides of the situation and you make the best of it," said one man.

One woman said she did not realize how much drivers were paid.

"I figure that since they drop them off in the morning and get them in the afternoon they don't really have time to have a second job on the side," she said. "I do support them."

Drivers make roughly $20,000 per year and are asking for a three-year contract with a two per cent pay increase per year. Their contract expired in June 2017.

Transco, a subsidiary of First Student Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio, is offering a five-year contract with no increase in the first two years, followed by three years of pay increases at half the rate of inflation.

The bus drivers argue that the school boards pay the bus companies increases that follow inflation, and say Transco is trying to pocket that on the backs of the drivers.

The unions’ mandate allows for one more strike day, though so far it says nothing is planned, adding that it hopes they reach a resolution before then.