SEFPO Fonction Publique de l'Ontario

President Thomas to Ministers: Keep our roads safe by paying TEOs fairly

Transportation enforcement officers (TEOs) are front-line peace officers who protect Ontarians by inspecting commercial vehicles, pulling unsafe trucks off the roads, and enforcing provincial and federal laws and regulations.

They are significantly underpaid in comparison to many other enforcement positions in the Ontario Public Service. This has created a retention and hiring crisis in the Ministry of Transportation – large numbers of TEOs are leaving for higher-paying jobs, and the ministry hasn’t been able to fill their vacancies. Fewer TEOs on the job means fewer commercial vehicle inspections, which means more dangerous vehicles on the road.

President Warren (Smokey) Thomas wrote a letter to MTO Minister Caroline Mulroney and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy calling on them to direct their managers in their respective ministries to approve the TEOs’ special case for higher compensation.

April 16, 2021

Hon. Caroline Mulroney
Minister
Ministry of Transportation
5th Floor, 777 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Z8

Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy
President of the Treasury Board
Room 4320, 99 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1W3

Dear Ministers:

Every day when we drive on Ontario’s highways, Transportation Enforcement Officers (TEOs) who work for MTO keep everyone safe. TEOs are peace officers who inspect commercial vehicles to make sure they’re mechanically safe, that their loads are secure, and that they are following the rules of the road. They work for the Ministry of Transportation, and we are proud to count them as OPSEU/SEFPO members.

TEOs regularly pull over trucks for infractions and issue citations. Their work can be dangerous – some of the individuals they pull over are wanted on warrants or have been charged or flagged as violent. They staff the highway truck inspection stations where they do this same work. They also keep school children safe by inspecting school buses. In all, TEOs inspect about 90,000 commercial vehicles per year.

TEOs also oversee Motor Vehicle Inspection Stations and ensure that mechanics who do safety certifications for personal vehicles are in compliance with the program. They handle special requests by police to inspect personal vehicles for illegal modifications.

Unfortunately, TEOs are also significantly underpaid in comparison to similar enforcement positions in the OPS. The difference can be as much as $19,000 per year. For years TEOs have brought special cases forward, asking for reclassification and higher compensation, and their requests have been denied. The unfairness is amplified by the fact that they have recently had commercial Drive Clean inspection duties transferred to them from much higher-paid Environmental Officers. They also work side-by-side with much higher-paid Ministry of Labour inspectors enforcing the COVID-19 safety precautions under the Reopening Ontario Act.

TEOs are rightfully concerned about this basic unfairness in their workplace. They are exiting in droves for better-paying jobs. In the 2018 round of hiring for TEOs, the ministry was unable to fill all the vacancies. This has a direct impact on public safety. In 2019, the Auditor General noted that commercial vehicle inspections decreased by 22% since 2014 as a result of the ministry not actively filling TEO vacancies. Since that report, less than a year and a half ago, the ministry has now lost, given up, or not filled another 60 TEO positions, leaving us with only 170 active TEOs on the job. Surely paying TEOs fairly would help attract and retain them in their positions.

My understanding from the MERC team is that even though MTO managers have supported their special case and sent it forward, Treasury Board Secretariat has blocked it. TBS managers are refusing to ask permission within their ministry to approve this special case because they say they can’t approve it outside of bargaining. And so, our TEO members are stuck in this bureaucratic impasse between managers and ministries.

That’s why I’m writing to both of you: the Minister of Transportation and the President of the Treasury Board. I would appreciate it if you could get this bureaucratic roadblock straightened out between your two ministries and direct your managers to consider and approve this special case. Our TEO members deserve to be compensated fairly for their difficult, dangerous and vital work. Ignoring their plight is an unnecessary accident just waiting to happen.

Sincerely,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, OPSEU/SEFPO

c: OPSEU/SEFPO Executive Board
Will Larose, OPSEU/SEFPO MTO MERC Co-Chair and CERC member
Jennifer French, MPP, NDP Critic for Transportation and Highways
Stephen Blais, MPP, Liberal Party Critic for Transportation and Infrastructure
Mike Schreiner, MPP, Leader, Green Party of Ontario