The president of a local school bus drivers' union says she is “hopeful” a deal can be reached to avert a strike that would affect thousands of students in both the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Officials at both school boards recently notified parents of a potential strike by drivers employed at First Student Markham.

“The wages versus responsibility is a huge issue,” said Debbie Montgomery, president of Unifor Local 4268, which represents drivers at First Student.

“It is one of the most important… transit jobs in the province and it is the lowest paid.”

Montgomery told CP24 she remains optimistic that a tentative contract can be negotiated before drivers walk off the job.

“I know all our drivers are very concerned about the effect that this can have on the children and on the parents and the horrible startup they’ve been through this year already,” she said.

“It would not be our intention to add any further angst to that.”

In a letter sent out to parents Monday, the TDSB and TCDSB said in the event of a strike, there would be no bus service for students in the affected area.

“If there is a strike, the operator will not be able to replace the bus drivers and the TDSB and TCDSB will not be able to contract another bus company to service the routes,” the statement read.

The threat of job action comes on the heels of a school bus driver shortage that disrupted service to schools across the GTA and Ontario earlier this year.

“The news of a possible labour disruption in the school bus industry at this time is very frustrating for parents, students and for the school boards,” the letter read.

“We remain hopeful that the contract negotiations between the bus operator and its driver union conclude with a settlement, not a strike.”

A strike deadline has been set for Nov. 3.