Drive test centre strike ends

DriveTest centres reopened last week after a tentative deal was reached to bring striking examiners back to work. The centres must now shovel through the immense backlog of citizens who waited over four months to take their driving tests. Nearly 300,000 people have been unable to obtain their licenses in Ontario due to the prolonged negotiations.

A few temporary drive centres were open across the province, but priority was given to commercial truck drivers. Citizens looking for work as commercial truck drivers were unable to find employment as a result of the strike
On August 21, United Steelworkers Local 9511 and Serco DES Inc, the private Company operating DriveTest centres, sat down to discuss disagreements regarding job security, seniority and wages in efforts to prevent a strike. The negotiations were unsuccessful and 590 employees walked off the job on August 24.

The government of Ontario allowed for extended validity of licenses that expired during the term of the strike. Licenses that expired before the strike began were not automatically extended.

On November 23, Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson introduced a Private Members bill that would force strikers back to work. The bill did not receive support from either the Liberals or the NDP, and the McGuinty government failed to provide government intervention.

Liberal members of Parliament felt that the only solution to the problem was to continue negotiations until the two parties were able to reach a common ground.

Wilson appealed to the Minister of Labour during the question period. What makes you think that doing nothing is a fair option for the people affected by this strike? Why is the government being so ignorant to the plight of these people?

Speaking to reporters after the exchange, Labour Minister Peter Fonesca said, [Serco and the Union have] to look to find that common ground to reach a collective agreement. We know that collective agreements are the most stable and most productive for our province.

While independent driving instructors would normally make between $1,000 to 2,000 a week, they have experienced a significant decline in income over the last 19 weeks.

Serco DES Inc. began operating the Drivetest centres in 2003, after  the Ontario Ministry of Transportation signed a ten-year contract worth $114 million with the company. The reason behind the movement to privatize the formerly government-run sector was to better provide efficient and effective service and reduce wait times. Before the strike began, Serco had voiced intentions of transitioning to seasonal employment.

Anyone expecting to take an examination should be prepared for long wait lines. Before the strike, examinations would have to have been booked anywhere from four to six weeks ahead of time. This has drastically increased since the strike. There will also be long wait times for second attempts.

In an effort to cushion the blow, DriveTest will hire 100 new employees.

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