Peter Tabuns, the NDP member of provincial Parliament for Toronto-Danforth, has called on the ministry of transportation to cut ties with the company embroiled in the current DriveTest strike.
Serco DES Inc. is locked in a dispute with 550 unionized employees. The workers, who conduct driving tests for the province, have been on strike since August 21.
Ontario contracted out the tests to Serco in 2003 under the Conservative Ernie Eves government. The deal cost $114 million and expires in 2013.
But, in question period at Queen’s Park yesterday, Tabuns said the contract with Serco is up for renewal in February 2010. He asked Minister of Transportation Jim Bradley to ensure the contract is not renewed for another 10 years.
“Contracting out driver testing to Serco has been a disaster from day one and has led directly to the labour conflict that has inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of Ontarians,” Tabuns said.
However, Bradley said he had no intention of interfering with contract negotiations.
“To abrogate the contract in the middle of the contract would cost the taxpayers of Ontario millions upon millions of dollars,” he said. “I know that rather than have those go to legal fees, you would want to ensure that it would go to appropriate programs to assist the people of Ontario.”
Serco is based in the United Kingdom and is responsible for conducting on-road driving tests, vision tests and written tests so people can obtain licences in Ontario. In 2003, testing was contracted out as a way to cut down on wait times.
Government employees originally conducted drivers’ testing through the ministry of transportation.
In a press release issued in 2003, Ontario said it was privatizing the industry to save money for taxpayers and to focus on more important issues, such as education and healthcare.
Seven hundred and fifty employees were affected by the decision. They were offered severance or a chance to work for Serco. But, as the strike stretches into its fourth month, some, such as Tabuns, are questioning whether privatizing was the right thing to do.
Yesterday at question period, Bradley defended the decision: “When the Conservative government established Serco and privatized that portion of the Ministry of Transportation, they believed, probably, that they were doing the right thing,” he said.
Tabuns said he wants the government to reassert public authority over driver testing.
Bradley said the ministry would only look into Serco’s contract, like all contracts with private companies, if it determined it was necessary to do so.
“We evaluate how they’re operating, and we make a decision at the appropriate time, taking into consideration all of the factors that are brought to our attention by anybody and everybody in the province,” he said.
The current DriveTest strike centres around workers’ demand for greater job security. They say employees are hired during the summer and then quickly fired in the winter. The union is also looking for better wages.
A mediator from the Ministry of Labour is working with both sides to facilitate an agreement. They sat down again yesterday in an attempt to resolve the issue. There’s been no word yet on how talks are progressing.
Neither Tabuns nor the Ministry of Transportation were available for comment.
I am sure if the elections were closer, the politicians would be making a bigger effort to resolve the issue. At the end of it all the kids suffer and the driving school suffer in this not so lucrative business.
As much as Mr.Peter Tabuns is wanting to do the right thing and get people of ontatio not to suffer from that british serco company, I agree that the contract should not be extended because serco has caused nothing but problems to the people of ontario, but for now USW 9511 employees should go back to work and resovle this issuse with serco in a different way. STIKE IS NOT THE ANSWER.
The Way i see it, the government at this point already got what they are happy with – commercial licences are up and running and kids could go write there g1 test so drivig schools are still in business. Who cares about people like us who are waiting to go for their G2 or G tests ? – Does USW 9511 care, does MTO care, Does Serco Care, Does Jimmy Care..nobodyy cares.
SO FORGET THE STRIKE AND LET US GET BEHIND THE WHEEL.
don’t renew contract, but punish drivetest employee’s
Serco des inc. has Vila laded your rights under
The Ontario human rights code
Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination
They have opened the doors on drive tested locations’ they are not providing equally treatment of services that are provide within those facilities equally treatment of services to each and every individual in Ontario that require drive tested services and testing services
They have placed you at a disadvantage simply because of your age,
They are providing older drivers testing to reclassified to commercial driver’s license that have a driver license but not older driver without a driver license that require retesting or novice’s to be tested for a driver license
How gave the Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty and Jim Bradley the right to Vila laded your rights by giving Serco des Inc the ok to open the doors on driver tested Ontario and provide limited services to sum of us Ontarians
Big people are talking, little people are suffering. How can one even think of renewing contract with Serco given they have stopped providing services four months ago?