Another day, another scramble for some parents to get their kids to and from TDSB and TCDSB schools, thanks to a bus driver shortage.
It’s an issue which has affected families since the start of this new school year, and according to a memo from the TCDSB, it may take a few weeks to resolve.
In some cases, delays have been up to 60 minutes, and over.
Both boards say they are monitoring the situation.
On Friday afternoon Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé sent out a tweet with a link to a statement, indicating he would assess the situation currently facing the boards, to determine if a more thorough investigation is warranted.
“Over the past few days, we have heard media reports as well as complaints from frustrated parents who waited for their children to be picked up or dropped off, only to have no bus show up. Among other things, our staff will look into what happened, what plans the school boards had in place, and what was done to inform parents.”
He’s calling for anyone with information to contact the office via the online complaint form, by phoning 1-800-263-1830 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW: Ombudsman to assess Toronto school busing issues to determine whether a systemic investigation is warranted: https://t.co/q6kYvFrc7o
— Ontario Ombudsman (@Ont_Ombudsman) September 9, 2016
On Thursday, the Independent School Bus Operators issued a statement, putting most of blame on the Ministry of Education.
“Everyone in the student transportation industry regrets the current situation of driver shortages. Drivers are the ‘front line’ and safely transport our students every day. Operators take pride in the industry’s service and safety record of the last 50 years.
The driver shortage problem is just a symptom of a larger problem. The Ministry of Education has forced a flawed procurement system into the contracting of school bus services that has resulted in rates being critically depressed.
When rates are depressed to the level that they are, the results have been:
-35 companies (service providers) have been forced out of business
-Companies have abandoned certain markets and/or turned contracts back in
-Some companies, just to stay in business, have been forced to bid low on contracts and by doing so can’t increase wages to where they should be
“Service providers are not opposed to competitive contracting, but governments must recognize the uniqueness of the school bus transportation business: the school bus is a single purpose vehicle and in many geographic areas there is only one buyer – a buyer monopoly – the school board’s consortium. If you lose the contract you are out of business and your employees are out of work” – Frank Healey, President of ISBOA.
The industry has warned the government of this outcome and offered solutions. Retired Justice Colin Campbell chaired a government appointed Independent Review Panel which made 29 recommendations to change the process – all industry supported.
The Ministry of Education will claim that they have increased rates by 2% per year. This 2% is not passed on to the contractors by the Boards and even if it was, it is not enough as costs, including government mandated fees, have increased significantly.
We regret that this flawed procurement process has caused companies to close, others to abandon certain markets, and drivers’ wages not represent their value to student transportation safety.
The Independent School Bus Operators Association (ISBOA) represents over 100 independent companies, some third generation family operated, that continue to transport students safely to and from school every school day.
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