TORONTO, Dec. 15, 2015 /CNW/ - The President of the Toronto transit workers' union says that Mayor John Tory and Premier Kathleen Wynne are shamelessly surrendering to the gypsy-taxi service Uber instead of protecting public safety and the rule of law, their primary responsibilities as elected leaders.
Today, Uber introduces UberHop, a transit-like service that will operate five dollar car rides on four routes to and from the downtown core during rush hours.
"Tory and Wynne are simply wimping out, there's no better word for it," said Bob Kinnear, who was recently re-elected for a fifth term as the head of Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Workers.
"They should simply pass a new provincial low and city ordinance that will shut Uber down until it agrees to abide by the law and offer its services on a level playing field. And pay a huge penalty for giving our local government 'the one-finger salute,' as Mayor Tory said in October. What happened to that John Tory, who has basically announced that he is now surrendering to this American company? He's hiding behind a weak Crown prosecution that can be easily changed by a new law."
"The Liberal government had no problem legislating away transit workers' Charter rights to collective bargaining in a heartbeat," said Kinnear, referring to Bill 150, the 2011 law that took away transit workers' right to strike. "They didn't like the law so they simply changed it, and Wynne voted for that."
"Now the Premier is just throwing her hands up in the air and saying: 'Hey, it's technology. What are you going to do, eh?''
"Can you believe that the mayor of Canada's largest city says he doesn't have the resources to shut down people who are operating outside the law? Uber is laughing at Tory all the way to the bank."
Kinnear says his union will work with civic leaders, community organizations and taxi drivers' organizations to "stop American billionaires from telling us how to run our city."
Earlier this year, Uber was valued at more than $50 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Kinnear also slammed Tory for saying that "choice is always a good thing for people."
Mayor Tory should ask Premier Wynne, "Is it a good thing that people choose to not vaccinate their children against infectious diseases? Or is it a good thing that companies get to choose whether they obey worker health and safety laws? Why bother to even have a government if it won't enforce its own laws?"
Kinnear also levelled harsh criticism at Premier Wynne for downplaying the economic and safety hazards of an unregulated public transit framework by calling Uber a "ride sharing service" instead of an unregulated business that somehow mysteriously ties in to tackling climate change.
"As if putting more cars on the road will help reduce congestion and deal with climate change. Is she serious?"
Kinnear said the threat of the UberHop service is not related to transit jobs but to public safety and sanity on the roads.
"This is not a question of protecting public transit jobs," Kinnear said." All of Uber's itinerant drivers put together will not make a dent in the 1.5-million daily ridership of the TTC. All they will do is create congestion, chaos and conflict on Toronto streets, especially in the downtown core, where congestion is already intolerable."
"Bus and streetcar operators have a daily challenge getting our passengers from Point A to Point B safely and efficiently. The last thing we need is a gaggle of unlicenced, unregulated and uninsured gypsy drivers further clogging our roads during rush hour for a few extra bucks."
"You think congestion is bad now? Just wait until Uber-whatever completely takes over our roads."
Bob Kinnear will be available for interviews at 9:30 a.m., outside the TTC Hillcrest Maintenance complex on Bathurst Street, just south of Davenport.
SOURCE Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113
For further information: Bill Reno, 416.223.7366