Q1. How much funding will be required to fill the gap that’s being created?
A. We’re working on determining what this is, but we expect it to be about $50 million for January – June 2018.
Q2. The government is already paying school bus operators to transport children to and from school, why can’t they just keep operating as is?
A. Government is the sole customer for this service, and contracts are negotiated years in advance. Unlike other service providers, who can manage the new minimum wage by raising prices, school bus operators are bound by long term contracts that never contemplated the 22 percent wage increase now planned by the Wynne government for January 1, 2018, and a further increase in January 2019.
Q3. If it’s so hard to find drivers, then isn’t it a good thing to raise the minimum wage? Won’t this help the problem?
A. Raising the minimum wage of drivers might help with recruitment, which is definitely a good thing. OSBA operators believe in paying fair wages. However, government sets the budget for this service and without sufficient top-up funding, the cost of providing the service will be more than what the government is paying.
Q4. Are you opposed to paying people the new minimum wage?
A. No, not at all. Bus operators believe employees deserve a fair wage. However, government sets the budget for this service and that puts a limit on what’s possible. Since government is both the customer and sets the rules on minimum wage, it has to pay for the higher cost of the service that will result.
Q5. What happens after the minimum wage increase on January 1, 2018?
A. The government’s minimum wage increase is intended to help improve circumstances for some workers in the province. We support the government’s intention behind their minimum wage policy, but without a change to school bus transportation funding, this increase will have an unintended consequence for student transportation.
Since we are locked into contracts by the government, the increase to the minimum wage has a drastic impact on our operating costs. If government doesn’t top-up funding to offset these unforeseen costs, many buses will not be able to run come January.
Q6. Is the safety of Ontario’s children at risk?
No. We’re in the business of student transportation and are committed to ensuring each of the children we transport everyday has a positive and safe experience. While we are aware of the safety issues that happened last year as a result of the driver shortages across the Greater Toronto Area, we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that no students are left in similar situations.
Q7. If service is interrupted, how do you plan to inform parents?
OSBA members are committed to working with school boards to notify parents as far in advance as possible if driver shortages will interrupt service.
Q8. Are your drivers properly trained?
Transporting students safely to and from school is a huge responsibility. OSBA members train our drivers to ensure they are compliant with all government safety standards. In fact, Transport Canada studies prove that a school bus is 16 times safer in getting children to school than any other form of transportation including students walking to school or in the family car. This outstanding safety record is thanks to our caring, professional school bus drivers.