Quebec taxi industry mobilizes to fight Uber
Published Sunday, January 31, 2016 12:30PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 1, 2016 7:19AM EST
The Quebec taxi industry mobilized this weekend to work on ways to fight the Uber car service.
Some 4,000 taxi drivers joined the Steelworkers Union, which gathered its members for a special general meeting Sunday in Montreal to discuss a plan of action.
Taxi driver Abdelhaq Rochdi said he has never joined a union before, but said there is no other choice.
“The government is sleeping, it's not acting and it should act because they are illegal,” he said.
Lawyer Marc-Antoine Cloutier will evaluate all possible legal recourse to try and stop Uber’s operations, which the group claims are illegal.
The possibility of taxi drivers being compensated in a class action suit will also be raised. By joining the Steelworkers Union, drivers’ dues will go toward the suit.
The union is also filing a permanent injunction on Tuesday for “the deactivation of the application of Uber in all of Quebec,” said Steelworkers Union Director of Strategy Benoit Jugand. “Taxi drivers wanted this. We have been asking this from the government but they didn't do it so we decided to do it.”
This classification is being challenged in other legal jurisdictions, with lawyers saying Uber should not be allowed to avoid paying into workers compensation, employment insurance and other government-mandated benefits.
The Quebec government laws governing the taxi industry will also be looked at.
The provincial government has been criticized for demanding taxi drivers in Quebec obtain special permits and licences, but yet don't require the same of drivers working for Uber.
Uber has said it has a different business model than a taxi company, and has no employees, but instead calls all of its on-demand drivers independent contractors. It claims the laws that govern the taxi industry do not apply to their company.
In a statement to CTV Montreal, spokesperson Jean-Christophe La Rue said their aim is to serve consumers.
“This request for a protectionist suit is without merit and aims at preserving the monopoly of the taxi industry to the detriment of consumers. We believe that Quebecers deserve an alternative transportation option that is safe, reliable and affordable and that taxi and ridesharing can complement each other to better serve the needs of users.
"As we have seen from Superior Courts rulings across Canada, Uber is a new transportation model distinct from the traditional taxi industry. We will continue to work with the government to find solutions that will benefit the population of Quebec and that will ensure a fair regulatory framework for all stakeholders.
'As such, we are encouraged by the leadership of Edmonton that became last week the first Canadian city to follow the lead of more than 70 North American jurisdictions that have regulated ridesharing. Finally, it is important to remember the position of the Competition Bureau of Canada in a recent report which favours the emergence of ridesharing and alternative transportation options for consumers.”
Unlike some cities, however, Jugand said Quebec has laws pertaining to so-called ride sharing.
“It is very well defined in Quebec so we actually have law that says it's illegal to practice that kind of work and we're going to make it apply,” he said.
Apart from its legal pressure tactics, the union and its thousands of taxi drivers plan to take to the streets in a strike across Quebec on Feb. 10.
In the meantime they say they will be keeping an eye out for Uber drivers and reporting them to authorities.