Quebec truck driving instructors protest Covid-19 layoffs

Steve Bouchard

MIRABEL, Que. — About 40 truck driver training instructors from Centre de formation en transport de Saint-Jérôme (CFTR) took to the streets yesterday to protest their layoffs associated with Covid-19.

They were notified of the layoffs by email on Friday, in a decision said to be linked to a lack of new students.

“We are the only teachers in Quebec to be laid off,” said instructor Marco Aubin. “The government has said that, in Covid times, teachers will be paid until September — even if it means doing other tasks. Today, we are almost 90 laid-off teachers.”

Driving instructors say their layoffs will lead to a shortage of newly licensed truck drivers. (Photo: Jocelyn Lesage)

“We have been preparing back to school through Zoom for two weeks,” he added. “Last week, administration informed us that we might not be needed because we are short of students. It’s false. Right now, the 24 students in my class don’t even know what’s going on. There are about 15 groups of this size registered in the truck transport program at the CFTR currently. They have three or four days left on the road to complete their module.”

Classes have been suspended since March 13, but instructors had expected to return to work on May 19.

“There are still seven CFTR training centers open out of 13,” Aubin said, noting they officially restarted training yesterday.

The layoffs that did occur will slow the supply of newly licensed truck drivers into the market, he added.

“Today alone, 200 students will be delayed in obtaining their CDL due to layoffs. If we are not rehired in September, between 800 and 1,000 students will not [be licensed] by the end of the year.”

Aubin argues that trucking companies need new drivers despite the pandemic.

“Companies advertise [job opportunities] again and still hire. They lacked drivers before it happened, and they will need drivers again,” he said, adding that he personally had driven all day on May 18. “I could have driven five trucks at the same time if I could have because there is a need.”

The CFTR says on its website that training is scheduled to resume on May 25, but stresses that any re-openings will be determined based on a case-by-case basis.

“The awarding of contracts for CFTR trainings is based on client forecasts,” said Nadyne Brochu, communications advisor at the Rivière-du-Nord School Board, which includes CFTR. “The anticipated hours are added to the contract. This is a way of doing things that has been in place for several years and that is to everyone’s satisfaction. But these forecasts were not met this year because there are no new active cohorts at CFTR. Right now, only the students registered before the Covid crisis are active.”

While there is a demand for truck driver training, there is a lack of new students because of uncertainties associated with the pandemic, Brochu said.

“The focus now is to allow students who were there before March 13 to finish their training, respecting the measures that are imposed on us by the health authorities of course,” she said. The school maintained the number of instructors needed to serve students that are currently enrolled.

“We recognize that the situation is unfortunate,” she added. “We will assess the situation and hope for a recovery in the short term.”

  • This story has been translated from an original version in French, published by Transport Routier.
Steve Bouchard

Steve Bouchard started writing about trucks over 20 years ago, making him by far the most experienced trucking journalist in Quebec. Steve is the editor of Quebec’s leading French-language trucking magazine, Transport Routier, published by Newcom Média Québec since its creation in 2000. He is also editor of the associated website transportroutier.ca, and a contributor to Today’s Trucking and Trucknews.com.

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  • To teach trucking in public schools of la Belle Province, you need to get your bachelor’s degree in teaching as of private school you only need to be instructors. We (teachers) work under a contract. My employer broke my contract pretexting that the didn’t have enough students because of the Covid crisis. Meanwhile, 2 weeks later, they contacted me to work off contract hours at half my wages. Suddenly they just found new students out of the blue?

    Needless to say that it brought a substantial saving by laying us off and making cheap labours for them. So the 70 + teachers decided not to take that offer.

    We lost a lot of money and we will keep saying to cheap labour. You cannot make the rule as you go since we have a work agreement.

    Perhaps, it’s all gonna valuables experience for our new management team.