OTTAWA, Nov. 13, 2015 /CNW/ - After more than three months locked out by an employer demanding that taxi drivers accept a drastic cut in pay, the drivers and their supporters this morning occupied the offices of Coventry Connections, the company that owns all the cabs in the city.
"We have been forced into this action by a company and an airport authority that have refused to engage in real dialogue on this issue," Unifor National President Jerry Dias said.
"It should never have had to come to this, but we are here until there is a deal. Until then, Coventry will not be able to dispatch taxis in the City of Ottawa."
The occupation of the Coventry offices began ahead of a rally this morning for the taxi drivers, members of Unifor Local 1688.
The lockout began in early August when Coventry cut a deal with the Airport Authority to drastically increase the fees paid by drivers picking up fares at the airport from $345 to more than $1,300 per month, by tacking $5 onto the cost of every ride. The fee cannot be added onto fares charged to customers, so comes straight of the drivers' pay.
This action was necessary as a result of the employer rejecting an offer that would have led to a resolution. The employer is now demanding that taxis owned by them have access to the airport. This dispute was about personal greed, as the latest move proves. Coventry is now holding Blue Line Unit and Airport drivers hostage demanding that they share their work with plates directly owned by those who are supposed to be bargaining in good faith with Local 1688.
"Taxi drivers in Ottawa work long hours at minimum wage levels incomes. They simply cannot afford such a massive cut in their pay," Dias said. "This is a cash grab by the airport and Coventry of more than $2 million, on the back of these working families."
Dias called on Coventry to return to the table to negotiate a deal that is fair for all sides, and on all levels of government to lend their authority to getting a deal. The federal government has regulatory authority over the airport, while the province regulates the contract talks and the city regulates the taxi industry.
"There are many players in this dispute, but not all are at the table. We all need to work together to resolve this dispute," Dias said. "This has gone on too long. The families of these drovers are suffering."
"Unifor has made a reasonable offer to settle this dispute. All we are looking for are serious discussions to find a settlement that's fair for all involved."
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.
For further information: Unifor Communications National Representative Stuart Laidlaw at Stuart.Laidlaw@Unifor.org or (cell) 647-385-4054.