Some school bus services in Lethbridge to be provided by private sector

The transit union which represents more than 55 school bus drivers and other staff in Lethbridge said there is no job security for its members as both the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division and Lethbridge School Division move towards a private school bus provider.

“We submitted a letter to the school boards to request they consider the school bus drivers under voluntary recognition as part of the (request for proposals),” said Travis Oberg, President of ATU Local 987.

“We heard back yesterday from the school boards that in fact the RFP has already been posted so there won’t be any opportunity to include a voluntary recognition for the ATU with the new employer,”

The ATU was hoping the voluntary recognition would mean that any company bidding on the contract would keep them as a bargaining agent and transition drivers to the new employer, but Oberg said that recognition is no longer an option, leaving drivers feeling vulnerable.

“The City of Lethbridge has been the provider — which ends June of next year — and at that point their employment will be terminated with the City of Lethbridge,

“From there we have no guarantee that the new school bus provider is going to hire all those employees.”

The school divisions issued a joint statement that reads in part, “Following a transportation services feasibility study, Lethbridge School Division and Holy Spirit Catholic School Division issued a request for proposals. Careful consideration of all of our options led to a conclusion that an independent contractor would serve the needs of our students and families in the most cost-efficient manner.”

The divisions said they hope to choose a new provider by late September.

Oberg said the private provider route could be a matter of double dipping when it comes to costs for the service, as people already pay money in taxes through the provincial education tax.

He said a portion of that tax goes towards busing costs.

“Often we see in this industry, private providers get involved in transporting school bus, that we start seeing fees on top of the taxes you’re paying for the transportation for those kids.”

City council had voted to terminate the current busing agreement last November.