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Que. bus drivers need higher wages, and there could be strikes if they don't get them: union

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Unions representing Quebec school bus drivers say the start of the school year could be rough -- many of them have yet to sign new contracts with employers and say there could be strikes this fall.

Quebec gave between 15 to 30 per cent in additional subsidies to school boards and school service centres last year, who in turn negotiate deals with private school bus companies.

While several employers have signed new contracts with drivers and passed on that extra cash through wage increases, others are still in talks.

Union leaders say offering higher wages is the best way to attract new drivers. It’s common for workers to make between $17 and $19 per hour, and a workday might only be a few hours split between the morning and evening rides. Add that to the regular stresses of transporting children, and it can be difficult to retain staff.

Josée Dubé, president of the CSN’s school transport division, says companies should be prepared to offer at least $25 per hour.

If higher wages aren’t offered in new collective agreements, some unions may feel compelled to strike – “there will be a breakdown in service,” she said. “There will be a shortage of drivers.”

Dubé represents about 3,000 bus drivers in different parts of the province, She says a large portion of the employees holding out on new contracts are multinationals who aren't afraid to close shop in Quebec if it's not profitable enough.

“It’s not just about strikes,” she said. “It’s about attracting people to work.

Contract talks will start again in September. Dubé told CTV that if the companies don't offer higher wages, strikes are possible in October and November.

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