New commercial drivers, driver instructors held hostage by DriveTest strike

More than two weeks into a strike by unionized DriveTest employees (including road test examiners), a growing number of new drivers have had their lives put on hold. And driver instructors at some training schools are now facing the prospect of layoffs since graduating students currently have no way to acquire a newly-minted A/Z licence.
Kim Richardson of KRTS Transportation Specialists reported last week that if the strike drags on much longer, he’ll have no choice but to lay off 50-60% of his truck training division staff. Meanwhile, he says many of the students his school has turned out in recent weeks still wait in limbo, unable to take their road test and begin their driving career despite having job offers in hand from respectable carriers.
Many of these individuals were former steel plant workers, stretched thin financially after being laid off by US Steel this past spring. They just want to work.
Once again, Ontario workers who want nothing more than to make an honest living are being held hostage by a union.
It begs the question I’ve asked before: why are our road tests being conducted by a unionized, publicly-traded company from Europe in the first place?

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • First of all, road tests should be done by government examiners because it is the government that grants the licence. Secondly, why are we allowing a Europeon company into Canada to test people to ‘Canadian Standards’? I am not against people migrating to our great country but let’s put responsibility back to where it belongs…the agency that is responsible for issuing driver’s licences, namely, the Government. It would also help with our employment situation here.

  • I am not against a private or public company doing work like this. There are examples of it working out well. Non-Canadian does raise some obvious questions, although I really expect a lot of the workforce is Canadian. However, I really boil when I find innocent people being financially hurt and held hostage by unionized workers, especially when, as is often the case, the strike is being driven by union management in some “ivory tower” not the grassroots worker who is stuck on the picket line.

  • This company is on cotract to provide a service. Since they are not maybe the goverment should find someone who will.

  • Easy on the unions James. Remember if you will how much unions in general have played key roles in the formation of the current labour laws. From what I’ve read the employees have an aweful lot to be angry about with this company. I’ve no doubt many of the former steel plant workers you mention wouldnt work for them either under the same conditions. Many of these employees are former OPSEU members who worked under the MTO when it was still interested in serving Ontario. Why they sold a cash cow like this one is beyond me, and further that they awarded to this company in particular is laughable. Obviously they dont google. The history alone that Serco carries of labour disputes all over the globe makes it a wonder why they are still in business. As for the ‘ivory towered’ union, um the members of the union ARE the workers. The executive committee is made up of employees. Today’s society does NOT allow for corruption in unions my friend, those days are long gone. The president is out picketting like everyone else. I am personally not a member, i do however have a vested interest, being a truck driver who frequently needs this service.

  • Having been laid off in February I elected to return to school to complete a heavy equipment / AZ course from 5th Wheel Training Institute. I completed a PTDI course to obtain my AZ licence on August 28th, whereby my drive test was scheduled on August 26th. Needless to say the DriveTest went on strike 4 days before my test date was scheduled. Now with week 3 of the strike finished, I’m no further ahead than day 1 of the strike with very little information being provided to Ontario citizens.
    I have been continuously following up on the DriveTest strike and attempting to contact government officials however with little success. After contacting my Member of Parliament, and also sending emails to the Ministry of Transportation web site, both sources indicate they will forward my concern to Jim Bradley.
    The Windsor Star is now reporting that the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has temporarily suspended funding for future students until the DriveTest dispute ends. So because of this MTCU suspension, now more individuals are stuck in limbo on EI, unnecessarily costing Canadian taxpayers more money.
    If the Ontario government issued Serco $114 million dollar in 2003 for a 10 year contract, why is the government allowing this to continue? The ripple effect has tricked down to more people on EI since they aren’t even being funded through MTCU. What happens when enrollment in the transport driving schools decline; layoff all of the instructors? If this happns then the result will be more EI costs to the Canadian taxpayer.
    Unlike living in southern Ontario, I live in northern Ontario so opportunities are minimal. Due to the DriveTest strike, I’ve lost the opportunity of many heavy equipment jobs because I need a minimum DZ licence. I desperately need my AZ to provide for myself and my family and get off EI.
    It doesn’t appear that the Ontario Government, Serco, DriveTest or the SteelWorkers Union cares in any way about their effects on Ontario residents. It’s one thing to affect a 16 year old from getting his/her G1, but when an AZ or DZ is required to get off of EI and get on with life, all I can say is “Enough Already”.
    All I want to know is what the Ontario Government is doing to rectify the current DriveTest strike since this is clearly a service we’re all paying for and getting nothing in return.

  • I wasn’t suggesting there was any kind of corruption going on. Only that in the big unions “management” positions are full time jobs on their own paid from union dues. I am obviously not involved in a union but have lots of friends paying dues who feel that union managers are pushing them to walk the picket line without having to feel the pain themselves. In this case, if Serco (the company) has a bad record of labour disputes they certainly should never have been awarded this contract. If the union pres. is walking the line with his members then I am certainly not talking about this case. -my compliments to him or her! That said I still think services like this should not be on strike, there should be a different arrangement.

  • This strike with Serco has gone on way too long. The company that I work for , a well known and respected Truck Training School, in Hamilton has laid off two instructors due to this strike and now they are talking about laying myself off soon, if this strike continues. I would like not only to speak for myself but also for the students that I teach and help achieve their “A” license. These students, per say, have been laid off from plant closers or the recession, they are sponsored through EI, which is our tax dollars people, to take the courses that will provide them with a usable profession. Now they can’t go for their road test to start their new career. In most cases, their EI is going to run out, then what is next, Welfare. How fair is this that the people who want to get ahead and work for a living are now going to go bankrupt, lose their homes, their car and possibly end up on the street. Some of the students have saved their money to take these courses. I would like to add that to pay for such a course out of their own pockets, possibly $3000 to $6000 and have their dream and their material things disappear has to end. What are they to do? This strike has to end!! And its up to our government, that allowed this contract between MTO and Serco, to help out. I have always thought that our government had the upper hand, when it comes to helping out the citizens that put them into office. As for now, I am starting to realize that foreign companies and unions have more power and more say then our own government. All I can say is, and it probably won’t help, but as a concerned citizen of this country and a teacher for many students ”PLEASE STEP IN AND DO SOMETHING” to assist these stale talks. It took me a lot to get to the position where I am now, not to mention a lot of money and hard work, so when I see these people that have worked in various companies, ie:steel worker for 27 years or so, and they all of a sudden get laid off due to plant closures and have to start over and strive to better their lives and this strike happens, is very upsetting to me and the people it affects. I hold the up most respect to the people that are trying to better themselves and stay productive, however, our government is not trying to help or assist them at all.
    Kevin Bergman

  • Myself being one of those rookie drivers have found it very discourageing that companies keep turning us away. They ask for experience but how is someone going to get the experience if no one will open the doors. I took the training at a reputable school because I became laid off from the auto industry.

  • I was talking to some strikers on the picket line a couple week back. They told me that they were Government Employees before that segment of the licensing was downloaded.
    When it downloaded about 50% of there benefits were cut off.
    These strikers are hoping that the government will take it over again.
    My betting is that it will become a Government Operation once again.
    Once again the Province will be bloated with Swivel Servents.

  • What actions does the government intend to take against Serco DES Inc. for failing to deliver the driver examination services that it is contracted by the Government of Ontario to provide?
    According to the legislation that enabled the regulation that delegated driver examination services to Serco DES Inc.,
    “A delegate shall exercise, perform or discharge the delegated powers, duties or responsibilities in accordance with the law and, in particular, in accordance with this Act, the Act or regulation containing or authorizing the delegated powers, duties or responsibilities and the delegation agreement. 2001, c. 18, s. 8 (1).”
    It would seem that, since DriveTest examination centres are closed, the delegate is not exercising the delegated powers as it is required to do.
    In fact,
    “(1) A delegate or subdelegate that contravenes or fails to comply with this Act, the Act or regulation containing or authorizing the delegated powers, duties or responsibilities or the regulations under this Act or under the Act containing or authorizing the delegated powers, duties or responsibilities is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $100,000 for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues. 2001, c. 18, s. 15 (1).”
    Will Serco DES Inc. be fined $100,000 per day for each day it does not provide the services that it is required by law to provide?
    Will the government exercise its prerogative to revoke the delegation to Serco DES and immediately provide the examination services being withheld to the public?
    “7. (1) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may by regulation revoke a delegation if, in the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor in Council,
    (a) the delegate or subdelegate has contravened or failed to comply with this Act, including the obligations imposed on them under section 9 with respect to records or personal information, or the regulations made under this Act;
    (b) the delegate or subdelegate has contravened or failed to comply with the Act or regulation containing or authorizing the delegated powers, duties or responsibilities;
    (c) the delegate has contravened or failed to comply with or repudiates, in whole or in part, the delegation agreement or the subdelegate has contravened or failed to comply with or repudiates, in whole or in part, the subdelegation agreement; or
    (d) it is in the public interest to do so. 2001, c. 18, s. 7 (1).”
    Certainly, the workers have a right to bargain collectively with their employer, but, Serco DES has an obligation to provide these examination services. If it cannot, because it is mistreating its employees to the extent that they’ve decided to strike, it’s up to the province to take action against the company to swiftly bring them back into compliance with their obligations and/or revoke their delegation entirely so that the MTO can provide the examination services required immediately. If the driver examiners were government employees before, surely the MTO can work something out with the union directly.

  • I have to agree with you James. Why is it that a company and Union from another country have so much control on our fellow Canadian Citizens? Its not right. So many (respected and honoured) schools have laid off many ceritfied instructors because of this and not only that many people that are starting a whole new life to support their families have been stopped in their tracks. I truly believe it is time that all (Ontario citizens) stick together and stand up. Stop being the quite and crap taking people that we are. Its time people, for us to speak for what we believe and have worked for.

  • The worst thing is that no one is saying he is responsible for this strike. No one we can grab and drag to court to end this strike. Its just personal issues and personal gains and I know for sure, give some thing to Union and they will end the strike on the same pay rates and other rules for the employers.

  • It appears since 2008 Serco and union employees have experienced strikes in Goose Bay, Labrador, now Drivetest Ontario.
    Was it a mistake for the Ontario government to privitized Driver testing in the first place. The result is that the Canadian ecomony is held in abeyance to foreign profits and union demands.
    This is not just inconvenient it is preventing many Ontario citizens from getting on with life, earning a living or doing work that need to be done. While a driver`s license is a priviledge – today it is also a necesssity.

  • Wallace School of Transport are the most respected lorry bus coach driving training school in the country, Londons first choice for operator and driver training, with the most comprehensive training services in the South East.

  • Drive Test is a profit driven company. Like all private companies. That says it all. Public safety has nothing to do with their operation. Private means profits.