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OTA calls for quick end to licence examiners strike

TORONTO -- The union representing Ontario's striking driving examiners and the company that operates provincial Drive Test facilities need to resume labor talks, says the Ontario Trucking Association.

The OTA is calling upon the United Steelworkers, which represents the more than 500 employees who work in Ontario Drive Test centres, and private operator Serco DES to return to the bargaining table.

The strike, which began in late August, is now entering its second month. The two sides haven't talked in weeks. 

According to figures obtained by OTA, in a normal business cycle about a hundred Class A drivers license tests a day are conducted in the province. There is currently a backlog of about 150 Class A license tests, but the association cautions that the number grows by the day.

OTA President David Bradley said continuation of the strike is not just an inconvenience for the trucking industry, but it has created concerns over the ability of cross-border truck drivers whose licences have expired to retain their FAST (Free and Secure Trade) designation. 

Canada Border Services Agency recently announced that expired driver’s licenses for FAST clients will be accepted until December 31, 2009, official confirmation that the US Customs and Border Protection agency will follow the same policy has yet to be received, although it's expected.

Bradley also noted that the strike is impeding people who have paid good money -- "both their own and the taxpayers" -- from getting their Class A designation.

"Some of these people have recently been displaced from other industries due to the tough economic times, are on EI and are trying for a fresh start in trucking," he said. "When the economy comes on stream, which we are all hoping it is, there will be a need for these people to be able to step in and do a job. They can’t even begin to get the experience they need if they are unable to get their licenses because of the strike."

The ongoing conflict is also having a significant impact on many of the truck driving schools that the industry depends on to provide the entry level training to new commercial drivers. 

Serco DES was awarded 10-year contract from the Government of Ontario in 2003 to handle licensing and driver test responsibilities for the province.

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