Unifor welcomes Uber bill


TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2014 /CNW/ - Unifor, which represents thousands of cab drivers in Ontario, welcomes a private member's bill introduced in the Legislature this afternoon to address the issue of app-based bandit cabs in the province.

"Strong legislation is needed to protect the public against bandit taxis in Ontario," said Amrik Singh, president of Unifor Local 1688, which represents taxi drivers in Ottawa.

The Protecting Passenger Safety Act introduced by Ottawa South Liberal MPP John Fraser would fine drivers between $500 and $30,000 per offence. Drivers could also receive three demerit points, see their licenses suspended for 30 days and their cars impounded for 30 days.

Singh urged all three parties to support the bill, and pledged that Unifor will work with both the government and opposition parties to review the bill and suggest any needed improvements.

While taxi companies use a dispatcher to send a licensed cab driver to those needing a ride, mobile apps companies such as Uber bill themselves as a rideshare services, connecting riders with independent drivers for hire. Such drivers aren't required to hold licenses, may operate vehicles not equipped with safety devices, and often bypass normal insurance requirements, among other things.

"Those licences, regulations and bylaws are there to protect the public and ensure a stable taxi industry," Singh said.

The City of Mississauga recently required that Uber get a broker's license to operate. In Toronto, the city's licencing and standards division has filed an application for a court injunction against Uber, citing public safety. In British Columbia, the province required that Uber seek a limousine license in order to operate in the province. Uber has refused to comply.

Singh said there is a place for apps such as Uber, but said no company should be able to skirt the law simply by calling itself a technology company.

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.