Monday, July 15, 2024
City of Toronto staff at the June 24th VFH consultation for the General Public at 850 Coxwell. Photo: Christian Zdravko for Taxi News
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Rideshare is “modern-day slavery, indentured servitude” driver says

Consumers, drivers speak at public consultation

by Christian Zdravko

Rideshare drivers are living lives comparable to “modern-day slavery,” and “indentured servitude,” participants heard at the June 24th Vehicle for Hire stakeholder consultation session.

Toronto residents affected by the shortcomings of the Taxi industry discussed problems and solutions with staff from Licensing and Standards; citizens expressed concerns about the difficulties Taxi drivers have faced maintaining a stable income since transport services like Uber and Lyft entered the picture.

Reducing the number of Rideshare drivers on the streets would reduce traffic congestion, and give taxi drivers a more even playing field, speakers including both Taxi and Rideshare drivers stated.

The June 24th meeting, organized by Gladki Planning Associates for Toronto’s Licensing and Standards division, was the fourth of five open stakeholder consultations to be held in June. Private meetings are also being held by direct invitation.

City staff are expected to report to City Council on vehicles-for-hire by the end of 2024. The report is part of an ongoing comprehensive review of the framework and bylaw and will respond to several outstanding Council directives from 2021 to 2023.

At times, attendees of the meeting grew emotional about the current state of the transportation industry.

As one woman spoke at the front of the room, asking the council about the differences between Uber and Taxi drivers, a man shouted from the crowd. “You’re speaking to people who make a hundred thousand dollars a year, so they don’t know at all.”

Earla Philips is an Uber driver and member of Rideshare Drivers Association of Ontario. “This by-law is ensuring continued poverty of drivers,” she said.

Philips referred to the situation of taxi drivers as “modern-day slavery,” and “indentured servitude,” because of their lack of choices.

“To continue to allow people who depend on these workers to continue that cycle of poverty is absolutely unacceptable,” she said. “City staff have an opportunity to make it better, to listen to those voices, and to help meet those goals, and to lift these workers out of poverty, because these companies don’t care.”

Some residents proposed solutions like implementing laws that maintain equal rates between taxis and Rideshare companies.

Behrouz Khamseh has worked in the taxi business for 37 years. “The prices need to be equal. Equal rates for the same job. They pick up passsengers, they drop passengers. We pick up passengers, we drop passengers. We are doing the same job. When the rates become equal, it would be up to the public, what they want to take,” Khamseh said.

He also believes Taxi drivers must “improve their game” if they want to compete with the Rideshare industry.

Khamseh believes Toronto must reduce the amount of Rideshare drivers on the city’s roads. He says this would help improve business for Taxi drivers, and reduce traffic congestion.

Others suggest that, unlike Uber drivers, Taxi drivers are weighed down too much by regulation.