Quebec appoints negotiator to help with stalled school bus contract talks

“The important thing is (that the contracts) are all signed before the start of the school year,” Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said.


QUEBEC CITY — With the start of the school year fast approaching, many school service centers have yet to reach an agreement with school bus drivers, prompting the government to order a negotiator.

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The Ministry of Education announced Wednesday the appointment of Claude Sauvageau as negotiator “to guarantee a reliable and safe transportation service for all Quebec students.”

There are still ongoing talks between the government and the Fédération des transporteurs par autobus to facilitate the renewal of contracts. A meeting was to be held on Wednesday between representatives of the carriers and Sauvageau, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge confirmed.

“We’re really moving full speed ahead,” Roberge told reporters. “We are entering a major blitz and I am confident that we will find a solution.”

Sauvageau’s mandate will be “to bring the parties together toward a common position,” the press release says. He will also act as a support to school service centers and school boards that are in a “negotiation sprint” with carriers.

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Roberge defended himself for letting the file drag on when the start of the school year is imminent.

“We started in May, in the spring, to negotiate with carriers. There are several contracts that have already been signed. There are contracts being signed every day,” he said, noting that less than half of the deals remain to be settled.

“The important thing is (that the contracts) are all signed before the start of the school year,” Roberge said, declining to disclose the exact number of pending deals.

According to the ministry, several student transport contracts expired on June 30 and renewals have been slow for various reasons, including inflation, which is affecting the operating costs of companies, and labor shortages, which could cause service interruptions in some. regions.

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The Fédération des centers de services scolaires du Québec (FCSSQ) says it is prepared to “implement contingency measures”. While the possibility of postponing the start of the school year or offering remote learning has been ruled out, some have suggested that public transport could be used or that childcare services could be offered to allow parents to drop off their children and return to pick them up. .

The FCSSQ says that each school day without transportation saves about $5 million, giving service centers room to fund alternative measures.

In its press release, the federation said it welcomed Sauvageau’s appointment and said it was “reassured” by the continuation of negotiations. He hopes that these steps taken by the Quebec government will allow “concluding contractual agreements with carriers based on the available budget.”

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