Grey-Zone Applicants

Written by USW 9511 Admin on Monday November 23, 2020

With the cancellation of all road tests in Peel and Toronto, there were many unanswered questions and concerns about testing applicants from those areas in other centres.  Members in various offices had Ministry of Labour inspectors attend to make determinations about the situation.

Today, many courageous members took a stand for their safety.  The questions raised by the cancellations of all road tests in Peel and Toronto remained unanswered this morning, and these members exercised their rights to refuse unsafe work under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to demand an explanation.  Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors attended various DTCs today and listened to concerns from members across the province, and made determinations that are fairly consistent across the different sites.  There are still a couple of reports outstanding, but we are not anticipating anything wildly different. Regarding the situation of providing service to applicants from Grey-Zone areas in other areas, the inspectors consistently determined the work is “not likely to endanger.”

The general position of the Union was the transplanting of “higher-risk applicants” from grey zones actually increases the risk in regions of other colour categories where applicants would generally be considered “lower-risk.”  While they didn’t disagree with that logic, the MOL inspectors consistently indicated the protocols in the offices were suitable for a workplace where potential COVID-19 exposure was an identified hazard.  The measures are designed to deal with any presence of COVID-19, and “how much” of the infectious particles is less relevant.  Measures we have in place are similar to situations dealing directly with confirmed infected people (long-term care homes, health care, etc), and the determination in those settings is also “unlikely to endanger.” 

There is also concern about the potential increased spread of the virus to those other municipalities through people travelling between regions.  This was not a strong position for us, as public health has not placed restrictions on either people leaving nor entering other areas.  The overall managing of the infection in areas is up to the local public health unit to dictate.  Without restrictions, and just suggestions as they are now, the possibility of the infection spreading is a possibility but not a serious concern for public health.  It was also noted that public health in the non-grey regions had not placed restrictions on driver examinations in their own regions, even with the knowledge of people historically and likely traveling from Peel and Toronto for examinations.

This was all predicated by the cancellation of the road tests in Toronto and Peel and the assumption the tests were cancelled due to examiner/applicant safety.  We have not been able to get clarification from Public Health Ontario (via MTO) yet as to the factors that were used in the decision, however, with the determination the measures are suitable, examiner and applicant safety is less likely to be the driving factor.  We will continue to seek clarification and take appropriate action on their response.

While this situation continues to be investigated, members are reminded to follow all COVID-19 protocols and ensure compliance of applicants as well.  Members are reminded to not get complacent when dealing with their coworkers, and there are clearly defined steps for dealing with the non-compliance of applicants and driving instructors.  If you feel your office is not following the proper protocols, alert your supervisor, union steward, the Serco COVID team (covid19@drivetest.ca) or the Union H&S Committee (healthandsafety@usw9511.ca) for follow up.

Thank you to all the members who spoke up and presented their concerns to the MOL Inspectors.  Even though the overall determinations did not support our position, members in some offices did enact change on some related matters, and inspectors have issued orders regarding measures that were lacking or deficient in individual DTCs.

Please send further questions to healthandsafety@usw9511.ca.