Ontario’s DriveTest strike leaves thousands anxious, with expired licenses

by Katrina Roberto

Sept 24, 2009

With little information on how to proceed some of an estimated 4,000 aspiring and current Ontario drivers are anxious as the DriveTest strike surpasses the one-month mark. They are upset about the lack of information provided during the labour disruption.

Katie Batrie, 21, a driver hoping to complete her final road test and now carrying an expired license, says the strike has really worried her.

“They [DriveTest] were completely vague about the way to move forward, which is particularly stressful when your license is about to expire!” Batrie said.  If she had not heard someone else talk about the strike, she probably would not have known about it until the day DriveTest cancelled her test.

Operating under Serco DES Inc., workers at 56 DriveTest facilities across the province have been on strike since August 21, resulting in the cancellation of all driver examination services. This includes all written, road and vision tests. Workers are striking in order to, “fight for fair jobs and job security year round,” according to the union’s website.

The United Steel Workers Local 9511, the union which represents DriveTest employees, does not frequently update its website. The only information being released for drivers is located on DriveTest’s homepage which advises them to continue booking and rescheduling tests during the strike.

A customer service representative of the DriveTest central booking centre has noticed an estimated 20-30 percent increase in calls concerning expiries. The DriveTest central booking centre remains open during the strike and continues to book future appointments despite the work disruption.  According to the rep, who didn’t want her name used, this procedure is in place so when services resume drivers whose tests were cancelled will already have new tests booked.

Although expired licenses are beyond a driver’s control at this time, it will still be up to him or her to obtain a temporary license, when services resume. A temporary license can be obtained from a DriveTest centre prior to a test in order to finally take it. For the time being the Ministry of Transportation has extended the expiry of licenses without penalty. The MTO website reassures drivers that: “Police agencies, border officials, and licensing administrators across North America have been notified of the current service disruption and are aware of the temporary measure in place to extend Ontario drivers’ licences.”

Expired licenses aside, another worry among drivers is test backlog. Laura Campbell of Etobicoke, whose license will expire next month, is concerned about tests piling up once services have resumed.

“What I’m worried about is when the strike is over, how long is it going to take to rebook?  she asked. “Will they have some sort of priority system for people whose appointments were cancelled? ”

At this time drivers must place their worries on the back burner because an end to the strike does not seem to be happening in the near future. According to Jim Young, USW Local 9511 president and grievance committee officer both sides have completely, “stopped talking.”