Protestors gathered outside of Serco's downtown Toronto headquarters Sept. 17, as talks between the two groups fell apart earlier that week. The OTA is urging both sides to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible.
TORONTO, Ont. — As the Ontario DriveTest strike enters its second month, the Ontario Trucking Association is calling upon both sides to get back to the bargaining table.
The strike between the United Steelworkers union (USW Local 9511), representing more than 500 employees from Ontario DriveTest centres, and Serco DES, the UK-based firm that has been operating the test centres since 2003, is being overseen by a government-appointed mediator, but the two sides have not spoken since Sept. 13.
Strikers took to the streets of Toronto on Sept. 17, gathering outside of Serco’s downtown offices for a peaceful two-hour rally. To see Truck News’ exclusive live coverage of the event, watch this week’s episode of Transportation Matters. Union members have planned for anther rally in Queen’s at 9 a.m. Sept. 30 if the issue is not resolved by then.
“Our members are encouraging the two parties to get back to bargaining. This thing can’t be solved if they aren’t talking,” said OTA president David Bradley.
But Bradley said the continued strike is more than just an inconvenience, noting the possible inability of cross-border truck drivers with expired licenses to retain their FAST (Free and Secure Trade) designation.
Though the Ministry of Transportation has issued a letter stating that it is extending the validity period of valid driver’s licences that expire during the strike and the Canada Border Services Agency recently announced that expired driver’s licenses for FAST clients will be accepted until Dec. 31, official confirmation that the US Customs and Border Protection agency will follow the same policy has yet to be received. The OTA says that as a result – though there have been no reports of drivers with expired licenses being turned back at the border – some carriers have been keeping drivers in this predicament away from cross-border work.
Bradley also said that the strike is impeding people who have paid good money – both their own and the taxpayers’ – from getting their Class A designation.
“Some of these people have recently been displaced from other industries due to the tough economic times, are on EI and are trying for a fresh start in trucking. When the economy comes on stream, which we are all hoping it is, there will be a need for these people to be able to step in and do a job. They can’t even begin to get the experience they need if they are unable to get their licenses because of the strike,” Bradley said.
Moreover, Bradley said the strike is having a significant impact on many of the truck driving schools that the industry depends on to provide the entry-level training to new commercial drivers. “People from the training schools are being laid off and if any of the training companies fail this too will impair the industry’s supply of labour,” he said.
According to figures obtained by OTA, in a normal business cycle, about 100 Class A drivers license tests are conducted per day in the province. OTA has been told that there is currently a backlog of about 150 Class A license tests, but the association cautions that the number grows by the day.
To weigh in with your feelings on the strike, visit Truck News executive editor James Menzies blog to join the conversation.
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