Ontario taxi workers’ union grows to 1,000 members

Labour Board sides with union: Dispatch company is employer of its drivers
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 06/03/2011

After a battle with its employers, a recently accredited Ontario taxi union is adding 1,000 drivers to its membership. This makes it the largest taxi union in the province, according the union.

The Ontario Taxi Workers Union (OTWU) is welcoming over 500 new members from Hamilton-based Blue Line taxi company after the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) ordered the results of a recent certification vote to be counted and honoured.

Blue Line has been arguing that they are not the employers of the taxi drivers, but rather a dispatch service. In the taxi cab industry, there can be multiple plate owners who lease the right to operate a taxi to someone else. In contrast, there can be single plate owners who sometimes drive a shift him or herself and then rent other shifts to people who only drive. Blue Line says that licence plate owners would be employers of the taxi cab drivers.

Earlier this week, the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that Hamilton Cab, another Hamilton taxi cab company, is in fact the employer of its drivers. The Board said that because a the company approves a driver’s application for a licence, sets driver-passenger conditions, and has the right to suspend and terminate drivers, the drivers and plate owners are effectively employees and can be represented by OTWU.

Yesterday, drivers for Blue Line were granted the same representation.

“This sends a clear message to Blue Line and Hamilton Cab that their time and money will be best spent working with drivers to bargain a fair agreement,” says OTWU President Ejaz Butt.

Since December 2009, the Hamilton cab drivers and plate owners have been trying to form a union. They hope to gain better pay, health benefits and a fair dispatch system. They also hope to reform the taxi industry in Hamilton, including security concerns and the city’s refusal to approve the installation of plastic shields to protect drivers from their passengers.

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