Tri-Board Transportation planners set to strike

A potential strike by Tri-Board transportation planners would have no impact on school bus transportation, according to the organization. Photo by Samantha Butler-Hassan/Kingstonist.

Beginning Monday, Apr. 3, 2023, seven employees with Tri-Board Student Transportation Services will be walking off the job if their demands for wage increases are not met, according to Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1479.

In a press release issued Monday, Mar. 20, 2023, the union noted that six of the seven employees are transportation planners, who they claim are “substantially underpaid” compared to those in similar positions in other parts of the province. 

“Right now, Tri-Board workers are the lowest-paid of similar transportation planners across the province, earning 19 per cent below the average,” said Liz James, CUPE Local 1479 President. “Our transportation planners organize safe, reliable, and efficient transportation to and from school for more than 30,000 students, over 600 vehicles, covering a geographical area of over 16,000 square kilometres.”

Tri-Board is a student transportation network jointly controlled by the region’s three school boards: the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB), the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB), and the District School Board (LDSB). According to the release, the six transportation planners are responsible for designing more than 620 school bus routes across the three boards. “Their work is valuable, and yet they are being paid 19 per cent less than the going rate for it,” James stated.

In total, the union is seeking an additional $20,000 to cover the wage increases of its seven employees, or $6,500 for each of the three school boards, which the union describes as a “tiny fraction of each of the three school boards’ budgets.”

The two parties have been in negotiations since last July, which is when Tri-Board officials filed for conciliation. According to the press release, three sessions with a conciliation officer appointed by the Ontario Ministry of Labour took place this past January and February. “A fourth conciliation meeting between the two parties on March 17 did not result in an agreement,” added the release, which goes on to state that members have already rejected a tentative deal which would have included a “lower wage offer from the employer.” 

Now, CUPE Local 1479 members are set to strike if an agreement is not reached by April 3, 2023. When asked by Kingstonist for comment, officials with Tri-Board said the organization has “offered a wage settlement consistent with 55,000 CUPE education workers in Ontario, including local school board CUPE workers.”

In terms of the requested wage increase, the Tri-Board representative stood behind the organization’s initial offer. “Tri-Board believes that the full employment package is fair to Tri-Board workers, and the number CUPE cites is understated and only applies to one year of a four-year deal.”

In a further media release issued Tuetoday, Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2023, Tri-Board elaborated on its offer, which includes a 3.7 per cent salary increase per year over four years. “This is what was agreed to at the three school boards we serve. Also included is an offer of 22 days vacation for new employees.” When asked whether the two parties will return to the bargaining table prior to the April 3 strike date, the representative from Tri-Board said future negotiations are “yet to be determined.”

As for the union’s claim that Tri-Board transportation planners are underpaid in relation to similar employees across Ontario, the organization disputed that assertion. “CUPE is claiming that Tri-Board’s transportation planners are the lowest paid of similar routing workers in the province, yet they are seeking parity with jobs with significantly greater responsibilities and cherry-picked comparator rates,” noted the press release. 

In terms of the impact a strike would have on school bus transportation across the three boards served by Tri-Board, the representative noted there would be “no impact to ongoing school bus safety or operations.”

“Daily school transportation will continue, and contracted bus companies will continue to be responsive to inquiries from parents and schools. General emails to [email protected] will continue to be replied to, and calls to Tri-Board will continue to be answered, although it may take us longer to return messages. Transportation applications will continue to be processed but will take longer than usual,” said the release.

One thought on “Tri-Board Transportation planners set to strike

  • “offered a wage settlement consistent with 55,000 CUPE education workers in Ontario, including local school board CUPE workers.” Is that the one where the Ford government legislated them back to work while invoking the notwithstanding clause to prevent them from being sued for violating assembly and association rights?

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