Montreal parents scramble to find alternatives on first day of school bus driver strike

Starting Tuesday, about 330 school bus drivers with Autobus Transco are off the job as part of a two-day strike, meaning a whole bunch of Montreal parents had to find alternative ways to get their kids to school.

Extra measures in place to accommodate parents of young children as 2-day strike begins

Some parents have to drive their children to school on the first day of school bus driver strike. (CBC)

Montreal parents whose children take the bus to school had to find alternative transportation today as school bus service has ground to a halt.

Starting today, about 330 school bus drivers with Autobus Transco on the island of Montreal are off the job as part of a two-day strike.

"I had to get up earlier to drive my son to school so I could get to work on time," said Elaine Turner, who was dropping off her son at Dorval Elementary School.

"But unfortunately I have two other kids sick at home so I just left them home alone to drive my son and my neighbour here to school."

The strike leaves 15,000 students across four school boards — the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), the Lester B. Pearson School Board, the Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys and Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) — without a way to school.

As of now, there will also be no bus service on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

Extra measures in place

Some school boards have extra measures in place to help parents with young children who need to make other arrangements.

"We made extra spots available in daycare who needed to drop off early and leave them a little later," said EMSB spokesperson Mike Cohen. 

"We made sure that teachers know not to do any special tests or evaluations on these two days, we do not want to penalize students who, for whatever reason, cannot get to school."

Cohen said he hopes the issue will be resolved as soon as possible, but the school board is prepared for two days of strikes.

Dorval Elementary is offering free daycare services for children who arrived at school earlier than usual.

Parents were also able to use the drop-off lane right outside of the school, where staff members were waiting to greet students.

"It was very smooth and the kids arrived safely," said principal Wusua Mitchell.

Carole Laplante, spokesperson for the union representing school bus drivers, says that negotiations have stalled and that 'nothing has been accomplished.' (Radio-Canada)

After failed talks between both sides, bus drivers voted for a strike last week. Union members rejected the last offer from their employer by a vote of 98 per cent. 

The union says the employer has offered a wage freeze for the first two years in a new contract, then raises the next three years at just 50 per cent of the inflation rate.

"We are in mediation and we spent eight hours in mediation," said union spokesperson Carole Laplante. "Nothing has been accomplished. The employer isn't budging."

While the strike has parents scrambling to get their children to school, some support the bus drivers.

"It's a hassle, but I understand the struggle of the drivers and the bus companies," said Mark Solomon. 

"And more power to them, it's only two days and I think we can pull together as parents and take care of the children coming to school."

With files from Simon Nakonechny, Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press