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MPI resumes driver testing as strike by 1,700 unionized workers continues

Manitoba’s public auto insurer is restarting its Class 5 driver testing through a partnership with certified driver education instructors, after the service was stalled by a strike that began earlier this week.

Manitoba Public Insurance announced the plan on Wednesday, two days after some 1,700 workers represented by the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union hit the picket lines. In a news release from the Crown corporation, board chair Ward Keith said the plan will be monitored closely by MPI officials and revised if necessary.

“Drivers who successfully complete MPI’s comprehensive driver education program will be certified for licensure without a road test,” the news release said.

Other drivers will be offered road tests for a Class 5 licence — the most common licence type, which allows drivers to operate passenger vehicles and light trucks — through one of the driver education instructors with whom MPI has partnered. Priority will be given to those who had appointments cancelled as a result of the strike, the corporation said.

Driving instructors will have discretion to perform the testing in a customer’s vehicle or in their own safety-equipped training vehicles.

MPI will also have discretion to require a driver to undergo retesting — free of charge — once the strike is over, the release said, but did not explain what circumstances would result in a retest.

In addition to the road tests, MPI is also resuming the written driver’s knowledge test, which is made up of 30 multiple-choice questions pulled from the Manitoba Driver’s Handbook. Those who pass earn a learner’s licence.

Anyone with existing appointments for the knowledge test is being contacted with details about how and where those will be administered.

Arrangements have already been made for other services offered by MPI, such as licence renewals, insurance policies and payments, and collision damage claims.

In Wednesday’s news release, Keith reiterated statements he made earlier this week, saying MPI’s negotiating team is willing to meet at the table with the union, but only to work through finalizing the offer that’s been tendered “and iron out next steps for proceeding to arbitration on the issue of general wage increases.”

Last weekend, MPI said it had offered a four-year deal to MGEU workers that included two per cent annual general wage increases over four years, a one per cent market adjustment on wages for about 75 per cent of union members, and a 3.5 per cent wage jump for employees when they reach the top of their pay grades.

The union has said it wants an offer on par with what Premier Heather Stefanson and other elected provincial officials are getting — raises of 3.3 per cent this year and another 3.6 per cent in 2024 and likely 2025.

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