Unifor calls for action in taxi dispute


OTTAWA, Sept. 15, 2015 /CNW/ - In an open letter published in the Ottawa Citizen today, Unifor is calling on the provincial government to help settle the taxi lockout in Ottawa – now in its fifth week.

"Taxi drivers in our nation's capital, already facing many serious challenges to their livelihoods, not the least due to the threat of bandit cab companies such as Uber, this summer were dealt another blow by the company they drive for and the Ottawa Airport Authority they serve," Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in the letter.

The letter has been sent to Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Coventry Connections President and CEO Hanif Patni and Ottawa Airport authority President and CEO Mark Laroche, and was published today in the Ottawa Citizen.

In it, Dias outlines how Coventry, which owns several cab companies in Ottawa, and the airport authority agreed to raise the fees charged to drivers to operate at the airport. When the drivers refused to pay, they were locked out. Unifor Local 1688 represents cab drivers in Ottawa.

"Without consultation with the drivers or with the City of Ottawa, which set taxi fees, Coventry Connections and the Airport Authority met in secret and decided to increase the fees charged to the already-beleaguered taxi drivers," Dias said in the letter.

"This money grab will net the two enterprises millions of dollars. For the drivers, who work long hours at minimum wage levels, it made an already difficult situation impossible."

Attempts to negotiate a deal have been met with stonewalling from the company, the letter says.

Dias calls on Flynn to appoint an arbitrator to bring an end to this dispute and bring in binding arbitration on all outstanding issues and for the cost structures and cost structure and collective agreements to be returned to the pre-lockout conditions. Drivers would then return to work immediately, pending arbitration.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 members, including more than 2,500 in the Ontario taxi industry. It was founded Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.