Ontario school bus drivers are concerned over the lack of COVID-19 health measures, but the provincial government says that they have addressed the concerns.
On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said that the Ministry of Transportation is working hard to ensure that there is not a shortage of bus drivers before schools begin in September.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce also said that he is working with Ministry of Transportation to tackle the “long-standing challenge in government to keep hardworking bus drivers.”
He added that Ontario is investing $20 million more than the year prior, and they are addressing the need for drivers to have full PPE and masking for students on the buses.
“We have been in constant contact with the school bus association of Ontario, and we are grateful for the work they’re doing,” Lecce said.
“We have listened to their requests and are investing $40 million in new funding flow to support school bus drivers on PPE and cleaning the buses. We will continue to be there for them.”
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Earlier on Tuesday, Unifor Local 4268 — the union for bus drivers, held a press conference expressing their concerns on the lack of COVID-19 protocols.
“With weeks to go drivers still do not have information on measures to protect them and the students onboard from COVID-19,” President Debbie Montgomery said. “Many of our drivers are senior citizens, more vulnerable to the virus, and right now they’re telling me that they feel like sitting ducks.”
The union which represents 2,500 Ontario school bus drivers, said that the $40 million in additional funding must be used for exactly PPE and enhanced cleaning and to not be funnelled “into the hands of private student transportation without transparency and accountability mechanisms in place.”
Their key demands include proper PPE to protect workers and passengers; physical distancing on buses; extra government funding to support driver hiring and retention to increase the number of buses and routes; to mandate face masks for students on the buses; and for buses to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.