An average of 20 would-be drivers visit the Port Union DriveTest branch every day, despite it being seven weeks since DriveTest employees walked off their jobs.
While the strike has been dubbed “the forgotten protest” or “the strike that nobody cares about,” DriveTest estimates that each day since the strike began about 4,000 people have been unable to obtain their licences.
“Until there’s a public uproar nothing will happen,” said one picket at the Port Union DriveTest location.
Members of Steelworkers Union Local 9511 walked off their jobs after their private employer, Serco Des Inc., refused to negotiate terms regarding job security, management policy and health and safety. Serco has run Ontario’s driver examination services since 2003.
Parent company Serco Group is a U.K.-based company providing service in government, health, transportation and military sectors. The Ernie Eves government awarded the company a 10-year licence after it outbid other businesses in a $114-million contract to privatize Ontario’s driver licensing system.
“This company won the bid and that’s where it’s been going down, down, down,” one DriveTest staff said. “The morale is terrible.”
While today’s McGuinty government hasn’t directly intervened, it announced it has offered a mediator to be present at talks to help both sides reach a resolution sooner.
On Sept. 30, about 200 DriveTest employees rallied at Queen’s Park asking the province to resume written and vision testing during the strike. That request was denied.
According to Jim Young, president of United Steelworkers Local 9511, their employer has proposed “language that it can lay off the most senior person prior to laying off junior employees, term employees,” students or new hires in probation. This puts the company in a position to “circumvent the employment of full-time employees” in order to save money on benefits given to full-timers.
“We’re on strike mostly for job security because the company didn’t follow the actual seniority list,” said Matt Mazuryk, Port Union team captain. “What they were doing was they were laying people off periodically and we wanted to have a little bit more security than that.”
There are two primary types of staff at DriveTest: the driver examiners and customer service agents. According to Young, their employers’ work culture doesn’t reflect the delegation agreement established when driving examinations became privatized.
“Our employer believes that the work is anyone’s work,” Young said. “When supervisors are performing our work that results in a reduction of hours for employees who are willing to work.”