School buses will roll tomorrow, operators say
Private operators don't want to affect children through a break in service
An organization representing private school bus operators in Newfoundland and Labrador decided Monday night to keep all of its vehicles on the road, on the heels of a warning to parents from Education Minister Clyde Jackman.
Jackman issued a statement early Monday evening that "some independent school bus operators have indicated they will not be honouring their contracts to transport children to and from school" when classes resume Wednesday.
"I think we are certainly relieved, and I know parents and students will be relieved, that the association met last night [Monday] and they've decided to put their runs on on Wednesday, and we'll respect that and expect that they will keep to their word," Jackman said Tuesday.
"We've been working with a consultant over the last couple of months dealing with the concerns of the independent school bus operators, and ... there are contracts in place and they are legally binding contracts, and we will expect that they be abided by."
Jackman said he thinks the negotiations between private operators and government may have been the catalyst that pushed some operators to their original decision not to operate their routes.
"We have been working with, and meeting with, the association for the past couple of months, and I guess it was just that some contractors may have felt that things may not have been going exactly the way that they wanted them and they were contemplating taking action," he said.
"We are relieved that they didn't and we've met with them in the past and we will continue to meet with them."
Robert Lundrigan, who speaks for the operators, said members decided later Monday night to ensure that all services are in place on Wednesday, and that a disruption in some routes would harm the wrong people.
"There was absolute consensus that there will be no disruption for students, at all. There was a strong desire to see that students were safely and securely transported to school," Lundrigan said.
"The point was made over and over [that] many of these people are parents and grandparents themselves and they had no desire, at all, to see any children disadvantaged in any way because of any kind of issues of a contractual nature."
Lundrigan would not comment on the issues that led to the dispute.
Operators have expressed concern over the last year with the provincial government's new tendering system, which they fear could put smaller companies out of business.