Toronto, Jan. 10, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Teamsters Canada, the country’s largest transportation union, is slamming the Ontario Trucking Association’s (OTA) proposal to bring in foreign workers to fill a shortage of drivers in the trucking industry. They should instead be focusing on significantly improving drivers’ wages and working conditions to attract more people to the profession. 

“Trucking companies can’t move overseas, so they’re trying to bring cheap labour to Canada. This is nothing short of an attack on Canadian workers and the middle class,” said François Laporte, President of Teamsters Canada. “Instead of trying to suppress wage growth, the Ontario Trucking Association should be looking at ways to give truckers a big raise.”

In real dollars, non-union company drivers’ wages in Ontario have remained stagnant for close to 35 years. According to a study published in 2013 by the Conference Board of Canada, approximately 87% of productivity gains by the for-hire trucking industry since 1986 have flown through to customers in the form of lower prices.

The problem began when the federal government deregulated the trucking industry in the 1980s. Deregulation allowed just about anyone to open a trucking company, leading to a proliferation of fly-by-night transport operations.

These businesses chipped away at working conditions and profit margins in the industry by offering ridiculously fast delivery standards at unfairly low prices. The entire industry was forced to adjust; unreasonable delivery schedules, low wages and long hours became the norm for truckers.

Many non-union truckers must now work over 60 hours a week, usually alone and away from their families, to be lucky enough to earn $50,000. 

Drivers paid by mileage will sometimes earn below the minimum wage when their routes force them to spend too much time in traffic, not moving. 

Truck driver’s licences in Ontario (Class AZ) are also easy to obtain, as long as you have enough money. They cost upwards of $10,000 and most companies no longer help cover the expense. The province should act to reduce these costs and make trucking a skilled trade (which would give prospective truckers access to grants and other subsidies). 

“Unless their workers are union members, transport companies usually got away with paying Canadian drivers ridiculously low wages. They’re only now realizing that they won’t be able to do that forever,” explained John McCann, National Director of the Teamsters Canada Freight Division. “But we are more than willing to sit down with the Ontario government to find solutions to these issues.”

Teamsters represent 125,000 members in Canada in all industries, including 15,000 semi-truck drivers. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, represents 1.4 million workers in North America.

Christopher Monette
Teamsters Canada
5142266002
cmonette@teamsters.ca