Big wage boost risks stranding students, bus biz warns

Looming hikes in Ontario’s minimum wage could strand school kids at roadsides next year, a London-based busing operator and two industry groups warn.

The industry already is struggling to recruit and hang on to drivers, even though they’re usually paid more than the existing minimum wage of $11.70 an hour, which will jump to $14 on Jan.1 and $15 a year later - writes

Hiking the minimum to $14 or $15 will make it hard to pay the wages needed to lure drivers away from less-demanding jobs, says Perry Ferguson, president of London-based Voyageur Transportation.

“We are already in a critical situation with drivers. If we don’t get additional funding in January, we will not be able to meet the need and that will mean kids sitting at the stops,” he said Thursday.

The Ontario Liberal government’s plan to boost the minimum wage to $15 by 2019 has come under criticism by many, especially by business groups warning of dire job losses.

The province’s Financial Accountability Office has forecast the plan — a move to lift low-wage workers out of poverty and fight so-called precarious work — could lead to a net loss of 50,000 jobs.

More than 800,000 Ontario students are transported daily to and from school, almost all through contracts with school bus operators.

The Ontario School Bus Association, which includes Voyageur, said its members are locked into long-term contracts that didn’t anticipate the minimum wage hike — and that London is one of seven communities where service is most in peril.

“As operators we support the move to increase minimum wage, but as an industry solely funded by government and experiencing driver recruitment and retention issues, we can’t guarantee that service delivery will be possible,” Mark Begg, the group’s president, said.

The association is lobbying the government to boost funding for busing. School boards get provincial funding for busing and hire bus companies through regional consortiums.

Begg said the association has a responsibility to warn parents about possible disruption in service as soon as January.

Voyageur Transportation employs about 600 drivers and handles school bus contracts in London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Halton, York, Wellington County and Ottawa. Ferguson said his company pays bus drivers $13 to $17 an hour, depending on the area of the province.

Ontario’s minimum wage rose to $11.60 on Oct. 1.

At $15 by 2019, the Ontario minimum would be tied with Alberta’s as the nation’s highest wage.

Ferguson said bus drivers deserve more than the minimum wage because they require 50hours of training and take on serious responsibility for kids’ safety. He said his company is seeing a dwindling number of applicants for available jobs.

“If you can work at Tim Hortons for $14 an hour or drive a bus, you would work at Tim Hortons,” he said.

Some companies, including Arva-based Murphy Bus Lines, belong to another industry group, the Independent School Bus Operators Association (ISBOA), whose new executive director is former London city councillor Roger Caranci.

Caranci said ISBOA has the same concerns about the minimum wage hikes and wants more provincial funding to use for drivers’ wages.

“Drivers have never been compensated for what they are worth. The companies will put that money towards their drivers if they get it. They won’t put it in their pockets” said Caranci.

Mitzie Hunter, a spokesperson for Ontario Education Minister, said the government has increased funding for school transportation by $12.6million this year and is working with boards and bus companies to deal with the impact of the rising minimum wage. But the government also seems to be bracing for disruptions in January.

“We also understand the concern and frustration that parents and students may experience as a result of service disruptions,” Richard Francella, the minister’s spokesperson, said in an email toThe Free Press.

“The minister is monitoring this situation and is expecting boards and bus operators to work together to do everything possible to prevent service interruptions,” he added.

But the Progressive Conservative labour critic at Queen’s Park called the situation just another illustration of the government’s “reckless” plan to quickly hike the minimum wage.

“It’s too much, too soon and we know it will hurt jobs, including London,” said John Yakabuski, the MPP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.

The region’s two London-based school authorities, the public Thames Valley District and London District Catholic school boards, referred questions about the issue to Southwestern Ontario Student Transportation Services, the regional busing agency. It said it “would not be appropriate or fair to our providers to comment on contractual matters.”

Read more news of London on our site.
students busbizwarns
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
9 views in october
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Nearly 150 County of Lambton paramedics are no longer responding to non-emergency calls amid ongoing negotiations for a new contract. Job action as of last Saturday means Lambton County paramedics won’t be doing non-urgent transfers between hospitals for the next while, or keeping ambulance stations as neat and tidy, a union spokesperson says. Nearly 150 Lambton Emergency Medical Services (EMS) paramedics represented by SEIU Healthcare Local 1 stopped resp...
Clapham Junction has been named London’s worst mainline train station for disruption in a survey by leading consumer title Which? Fifty-seven per cent of trains have been late or cancelled at the south London interchange since the beginning of the year, their research found. Their study found King’s Cross was the second worst, with 51 per cent of trains delayed or cancelled, followed by Victoria (47 per cent), Stratford (44 per cent) and London Bridge (44...
Tube drivers on the Piccadilly Line are set to hold fresh 24-hour strike action in a row over staffing and working conditions. The RMT Union has urged members to walk out at 12:00 BST on 7 November until noon the following day - writes The union's general secretary Mick Cash said it had become "frustrated" with Tube bosses' handling of a "full raft of issues". Transport for London (TfL) said it was "disappointed" with the new strike. Drivers on the...
The Tate and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) are calling for a premium to fund arts classes in England's schools. The major arts institutions say league tables and pressures on time and budgets are squeezing out important creative subjects - writes Six thousand 11 to 18-year-olds have described how the subjects help build their confidence, in new research. The government says it is investing almost £500m in arts and music. Creative subjects hav...
Five teenagers have been jailed for fatally stabbing a man in an unprovoked attack as he returned home from an appointment with his pregnant partner. Daniel Frederick, 34, was knifed repeatedly by the group just yards from his home in Stoke Newington, Hackney. Three teenagers were convicted of murdering Mr Frederick while another two were found guilty of manslaughter. They were jailed at the Old Bailey for a combined total of at least 64 years. Judge Phili...
Work at a building site near London's Olympic Park has stopped after complaints about "horrendous" smells. Nearby Mossbourne Academy said its students felt sick and local residents spoke of headaches because of smells coming from the site in Hackney Wick. The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) told Telford Homes to stop work last month until a new plan to "manage the site" was approved. The LLDC and Telford Homes claimed there was no health risk....
Ten of Britain's busiest railway stations have seen over half of all train services delayed by a minute or more this year, research has revealed - writes Manchester Oxford Road had the least punctual services, with 68% delayed. Data analysis by consumer group Which? found York, Gatwick Airport and Birmingham New Street also saw less than 40% of trains arrive on time. The group said even small delays could have "a knock-on effect" on passengers' abi...
Two more east London schools have closed because of an infestation of false widow spiders. John F Kennedy Special School, which has campuses in Stratford and Beckton, and Godwin Junior School, in Forest Gate, announced they would close. False widows are about the size of a 50p coin and are the most dangerous spider species in the UK. Four secondary schools and four primary schools, all in Newham, have closed for various amounts of time. Thousands of childr...
London Abused Women’s Centre says an anti-sex-trafficking online ad campaign that drew scores of calls for help from women and girls was so successful, it's already planning another. London Abused Women’s Centre says an anti-sex-trafficking online ad campaign that drew scores of calls for help from women and girls was so successful, it’s already planning another. The online ads, targeting both possible trafficking victims and sex buyers, appeared or were v...