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Bad transport vehicle driver background checks putting lives at risk

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Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is demanding more be done to protect Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) enforcement officers as they prepare to approach pulled over drivers.

The officers are increasingly losing confidence in the third-party information they get from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) when they request background checks, says Thomas.

“It seems to us like our MTO members are getting the rug pulled from under them,” said Thomas.

On at least one occasion recently, officers approached a driver after being told it was safe to do so. It later turned out that there were, in fact, concerns. A subsequent investigation found the green light was given, even though the background check was not even conducted, a disturbing practice known as a false return.

“Unacceptable,” says Thomas. “The people these officers are pulling over could have a documented violent history, or criminal warrants – who knows what else? This situation is potentially dangerous and it has to stop immediately. If our members can’t trust the people who have the inside information, then how can they be sure that they are safe?”

Following the false return, officers from around the province staged a number of work refusals last week. The refusals were in keeping with the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act, which allows employees to refuse unsafe work. Ministry of Labour officials later visited the workplace and suspended truck inspections province-wide for a short period of time.

As a Corrections Officer, OPSEU First Vice President/Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida understands the risks of dealing with dangerous people and says what happened is inexcusable.

“These workers already put their lives at risk on our busy roads and highways to make sure the goods and products we need are moved in a safe and secure manner,” he says. “Now it has been proven that they are receiving bad information because of human error on the other end of the line. Something must be done, because our members’ lives depend on it.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931