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School bus now servicing strike-affected families

By Ashliegh Gehl

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BELLEVILLE, ON. (09/08/11) The support worker strike at Loyalist College has made it challenging for Christine McArthur, 42, to get her son Miles and daughter Zoe to school after Tri-Board Student Transportation Services temporarily cancelled their route. Photo by Ashliegh Gehl.

Tri-Board Student Transportation Services resumes a school bus routed in the strike zone near Loyalist College Friday, Sept. 9.

On Sept. 6, Tri-Board decided to cancel parts of a bus route due to strike-related traffic congestion on Wallbridge-Loyalist Rd.

Tri-Board CEO Steve Wowk said after Tuesday’s disruptions the company decided to reroute the bus around the strike zone for one day.

Wowk said cancelling busses due to strike-related route interferences is not standard procedure and he will not hesitate to cancel again if hour-long delays are expected.

The Ontario-wide strike for community college support workers started Sept. 1, when talks between the Ontario Public Service Employee Union fell through with college negotiators on Aug. 31.

The union is requesting a three per cent annual wage increase. The college denied the union’s request and offered a 1.5 per cent increase over two years and a 1.75 per cent increase in the third year.

OPSEU represents more than 8,000 college support workers across the province’s 24 colleges. Loyalist has 150 support staff walking the picket line.

Christine McArthur, 41, has lived with her husband and children between Loyalist and Quinte Christian High School for seven years. They were directly affected by Tri-Board’s bus cancellation.

“We were ticked!” she said.

The McArthur’s depend on Tri-Board to take their eight-year-old son Miles to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School and their 12-year-old daughter Zoe, to Centennial Secondary School.

When Tri-Board told the McArthur’s the bus route was temporarily cancelled until further notice, they were forced to improvise. That’s when they partnered with their next-door neighbour, Bic Leadbeater, to get the children to school on time; a daunting task for a family with one vehicle.

“It’s a big inconvenience,” said McArthur. “We’ve never had this before.”

McArthur said the impact of the strike extends beyond the college.

“It’s not just affecting the college,” she said. “It’s affecting the community.”

McArthur said her husband Chris worked from home for the first few days because traffic made it difficult for him to get out of the driveway.

“On the first day it got quite scary,” she said. “Some pulling over, others zipping by.”

Leadbeader, 42, said the bus cancellation affected her son Joshua who attends Centennial.

“It’s kind of annoying,” she said.

Leadbeater said traffic implications from the strike no longer phase her.

“I don’t really care,” she said.

Hermien Hogewoning, an administrative assistant at Quinte Christian High School, said a majority of the students rely on busses to get to school.

The school didn’t issue a warning to parents about possible delays due to the high volume of students who utilize bus services.

Hogewoning said the community had a heightened awareness about the strike and the possibility of delays.

“Everyone knew that it was happening,” she said.

Hogewoning said on the first day of school classes were disrupted and busses were delayed.

“It was worse on the first day,” she said.

On September 8, OPSEU invited community college negotiators back to the bargaining. No new talks are currently scheduled between the college and the union.