Albertans wanting to take a driving test this week may have to wait.
Some driving examiners stopped working Thursday in protest of the deprivatization of their jobs, says Pete Llewellyn, executive director of the Certified Driver Examiners Association.
"Dozens of examiners have walked off.... We're just withholding our services," he said. "I am definitely among them."
The association has about 100 members.
Eighty per cent of those members have stopped working, Llewellyn said, with some of the rest saying they'll stop by the weekend. The informal job action could last two weeks or longer, he said previously.
Alberta Transportation, however, says the department was aware of only four testers, out of 140, who had declined to work by early Thursday afternoon.
"I want to assure the public that should any job action take place, any disruptions in service will be minimal," ministry spokesperson John Archer said in an emailed statement.
Salaries in question
As of March 1, all driver examiners will work for the provincial government. Current testers have been invited to apply for the new jobs.
That means, for some, leaving their positions as a registry employee. But for others, it means having to end their time as an independent contractor or business, Llewellyn said, and without any offer to buy them out.
"I'm saddened that the government failed to recognize us as businesses, considering that they've, for me in particular, and for a lot of examiners, they've taken taxes from us," he said.
At issue, as well, is the rate of pay being offered to the new government employees. Examiners had been promised salaries of $70,000 to $80,000 per year, but Llewellyn said the latest numbers showed a $53,000 to $67,000 pay scale.
That's about half what some examiners were making annually, he said.
List of complaints
Following the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash last year, the Alberta government promised a range of changes to driver testing and training.
The province also pointed to an independent report published 2½ years ago that identified a wide range of complaints in the industry, including examiner availability, poor service, high fees for tests and criminality.
"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," the provincial spokesperson said in the statement.
Llewellyn has argued the province could step up monitoring of examiners while keeping the service private. The driving examination system in Alberta was privatized in 1993 under then-premier Ralph Klein as a way to improve access.
As the deadline looms, the association has stepped up its advocacy, announcing its intention to stop working this week.
Llewellyn was in Lethbridge on Thursday to meet with association lawyers. He said the group is planning on moving ahead with a lawsuit, the details of which he did not disclose.
His association has sent a list of demands to Alberta Transportation.