Tyler Dugard was at Durham College’s Oshawa campus until after 9 p.m. last Wednesday. He wasn’t catching up on homework, studying for a test or hanging out with friends.
He was waiting for a ride.
The 19-year-old first-year marketing student has been trying to get his Ontario G2 drivers licence since the summer and has had to reschedule numerous times because of the DriveTest strike.
“It’s frustrating always having to wait for somebody to be able to come get me,” Dugard said. “I won’t even bother setting another test time until the strike is over.”
Fortunately for Dugard, his mother and brother are available to drive him to and from classes at Durham College – and the bus is always an option if he’s really stuck.
But for others, the strike is affecting more than their daily commute.
Unionized DriveTest employees have been on strike since Aug. 21. The 550 examiners represented by the union are striking over job security.
According to www.drivetest.ca regular driver’s licence renewals – those that are nearing the end of the normal five-year period – aren’t affected. Driver examination services, however, are cancelled until the strike comes to an end. The service includes tests for current and new drivers (written, eye tests, road tests) and for those looking to upgrade an existing licence.
Early last month, the striking workers rejected the latest offer from their employer Serco DES Inc., with 78 per cent of the members voting against settling. The Ministry of Labour states they have a government mediator working with both sides to come to an agreement and get the testing sites back up and running.
But some felt this didn’t go far enough. On Monday 200 driving instructors protested at Queen’s Park, urging the government to step in and resolve the strike so the test centres can reopen. They gathered to support MPP Jim Wilson’s bill to end the strike. With the economy still not stable, the protesters want the Liberal government to take action.
Peter Ajodha owns and runs Peter’s Academy of Defensive Driving. In the last four and a half months, his business has taken a huge hit.
“We have five locations and we used to take in 100 students per month,” Ajodha said. “Now if we get 20 per month we’re lucky. I just feel helpless.”
Despite sending numerous emails to both the provincial government and DriveTest, Ajodha says he hasn’t heard anything back. Ajodha attended the protest, saying he felt it was one of the only things he could do.
Although testing has resumed as of Nov. 12 for people whose employment relies on their up-to-date licences, this still leaves smaller businesses such as Ajodha’s out in the cold.
“I have 119 employees with families and mortgages,” Ajodha said. “They can’t pay their bills.”
Ajodha is trying to remain optimistic, however.
“I hope it settles soon,” he said. “Maybe then people can have a Merry Christmas.”
Minister of Transportation Jim Bradley could not be reached for comment.