School bus drivers leaving for ‘lucrative’ Muskrat Falls employment

Derek Montague
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Lake Melville School without bus service for day and a half

Students at Lake Melville School in North West River had to go without a bus service for a day and a half, due to a lack of available drivers in the area.

For the entire day of Wednesday, May 14, and the morning of Thursday, May 15, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District couldn’t find someone to replace the regular bus driver, who was absent during that time.

“Unfortunately bussing was not available for students for Lake Melville School for that particular run,” confirmed Tony Stack, assistant director of education-operations, for the English School District. “Now it has been rectified for this afternoon (on May 15) and ongoing into the future.”

Many bus drivers in central Labrador have been seeking employment at Muskrat Falls, leaving a shortage of causal drivers for the local school routes. According to Stack, the school district has lost two permanent drivers in the week leading up to May 15.

 “We continue to face challenges around retention of bus drivers. Clearly in the market place up there, there’s some very lucrative positions elsewhere,” said Stack.

“That said, we provide good working conditions and a great job … we think we offer a pretty good occupation …”

Stack said that it’s the list of casual drivers who are being recruited away to other jobs, more so than the regular full time drivers.

“It’s not so much about the regular bus drivers as it is about the list of casuals,” said Stack. “We have a list of casuals but, of course, the casual drivers are often unavailable because they’ll … get picked up for other jobs.”

According to Stack, the school district is about to advertise for another full time bus driver position in central Labrador. They are also hoping to add more recruits to the much-needed casual driver list.

“Maybe they have kids in school and they got time in between to offer their services. We’re willing to participate in the training aspect of that, in preparation to get them their class 2 license if necessary,” said Stack.

“In this climate, you might need a bigger casual list then you would deploy elsewhere because, if the demand is there from industry, and they’re recruiting and people are disappearing off the casual list in high turnover rates, then we’d need a bigger casual list.”

If more bus drivers continue to leave the school district, it’s possible that some routes will have to be accommodated with some “double runs” in central Labrador, where drivers drop off kids to school, then go back and do a second pick up. If that happens, said Stack, it could cause delays.

“We might have to do a double run, but that’s not where we want to be, because that would throw delays into the system,” said Stack.

“It might be a mitigating measure but … if routes aren’t designed for double runs, that’s not where we want to be.”

Organizations: Lake Melville School

Geographic location: Labrador, North West River

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