Taxi drivers threaten strike then back off


Business as usual

Toronto, February 12 (CINEWS): When a taxi company announced plans to slow or stop traffic around the GTA over the coming weekend Torontonians must have cursed their luck. The plan was to cause traffic snarls ahead of Friday’s afternoon rush-hour on Highway 427, the Gardiner and areas around the Air Canada Centre, but then Toroto Mayor John Tory sounded firm and unrelenting and sensing that any planned disruption of traffic could become a public relations nightmare.
The cabbies, angry at how the city has handled the rise of Uber, were timing their protest to begin as thousands of visitors arrive for the NBA All-Star Weekend and the International Auto Show.
They are upset with the ride-hailing app UberX is taking away their business while operating illegally. The city is working to create new bylaws that will encompass Uber, but those new rules won’t come until at least April.
Paul Sekhon is a general manager at City Taxi and organizer of this weekend’s protest. He also heads the United Taxi Workers Association, a newly formed umbrella group of taxi industry organizations opposed to Uber.
Traditional Toronto taxis are heavily regulated but Uber — and in particular its ride-hailing app UberX — connects paying passengers with private cars that provide a taxi-like service for a fee. Cabbies have complained they can’t compete with Uber, which they say is operating illegally while they’re forced to play by the rules. The city’s licensing and standards department is working to re-write rules that will encompass Uber and create a level playing field for all cab operators.
Tory said he has sympathy for the plight of traditional cabbies but said taxis can’t be allowed to block streets as they did during a protest in December. He said protest actions won’t speed up “by one minute” the process of rewriting the existing bylaws.
Cabbies will focus their actions on the city’s downtown core. The All-Star Game isn’t the only target. Sekhon said taxi drivers may also demonstrate outside the Canadian International Auto Show, a nine-day event that begins Friday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre that often draws more than 300,000 attendees.
Last week, council voted against seeking a court injunction to stop UberX from operating, opting instead to wait until new rules are in place. At the time, city staff said they are actively ticketing drivers who operate as a taxi service without the a proper city-issued licence.

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