Driver examiners dispute with province over privatization leads to walkouts

By Sheldon Spackman
January 11, 2019 - 4:21pm

Albertans looking to take a driving test may run into some delays over the coming weeks.

Dozens of examiners with the Certified Driver Examiners Association (CDEA) have begun withdrawing their availability for driver examinations over the next two weeks, or until further notice, due to an ongoing dispute with the provincial government.

On July 10, 2018, Minister of Transportation Brian Mason announced plans for the province to take over the training, testing and oversight of all drivers, particularly those in the commercial trucking industry.

The industry has been privatized in Alberta since 1993.

However, on Thursday the CDEA announced they would be filing legal action in the Court of Alberta Justice against Mason alleging the denial of a fair review of requests submitted by their legal counsel.

The action includes, but is not limited to, a judicial review, a stay and a charter lawsuit.

CDEA officials claim non-member examiners in the province have also indicated strong support to both the legal action and the withdrawing of availability for driver examinations.

Pete Llewellyn, Executive Director for CDEA, says the heart of their concerns is the lack of fair compensation for their businesses and for the government to live up to its word on what was initially offered to driver examiners.  

“We have approximately 100 members in our association and we do know that some of our members will work,” admits Llewellyn. “We have approximately 15-16 examiners in Red Deer and I know at least half of them are not working. The registry office will stay open, they just won’t be able to offer driver examination services.”

Llewellyn says there are currently 146 driver examiners throughout the province with some being offered jobs in the new government-run system, but pointing out it’s not the same as owning your own business.

“We can apply for a job,” he explains. “We have to go through the application process like anybody else, even though we’re fully trained. We have licenses that are good for upwards of two years and we have to go through the interview process, training session, we have to go through another police check, all things that we have to pay for.”

In terms of pay, Llewellyn says most driver examiners make $100,000-$125,000 per year in their business, with the government offering $53,000 per year to start.

“What we’re objecting to is they told us they were going to pay us somewhere between $70,000-$80,000 a year and benefits on top of that,” states Llewellyn. “Then when they start making the offers to examiners after the interviews, they offer in a different pay grade, a different range altogether. In our demand letter, that was one of our concerns.”

Starting March 1, all road tests will be conducted by Government of Alberta employees, with standardized entry-level training mandatory for all new Class 1 and 2 commercial drivers.

Government officials say Alberta is returning to a publicly-run driver examiner road test program to ensure standardized fees for consumers, consistent standards for examiners and clear safety expectations for new drivers.

Inspiration for the move followed the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that tragically killed 16 people and injured 13 others on April 6, 2018.

A statement provided by the Office of the Transportation Minister reads, “Albertans deserve a road test model that is fair, consistent, reliable and trustworthy. Having government employees conduct driver examinations is the most effective way to achieve that goal.” 

It goes on to say, “Alberta Transportation department officials analyzed the potential for a work stoppage by the members of the CDEA. We want to assure the public that any disruptions in service are isolated and minimal.”

The statement concludes, “Alberta Transportation is aware of a total of six driver examiners that have declined to offer their service, out of more than 140 driver examiners currently active in Alberta.”

Llewellyn says CDEA would like the government to ‘come back to the table’ to resolve their dispute.

“We’re willing to sit down, I just don’t believe the government is willing to sit down,” he exclaims. “We had an excellent proposal that we sent in to them and you know what? We heard absolutely nothing back from them, not one word.”

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