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Sept 28 UBERSTRIKE protest demands more traditional regulatory framework

Uber and Lyft drivers in Toronto are organizing to support the September 28th international strike for better working conditions. Drivers are being asked to log off of their apps, and passengers are being asked to take a taxi, a shuttle or a bus on “APPS OFF” day around the globe.

Members of the taxi industry note that the regulatory framework Uber drivers  are asking for is essentially the system that existed before Toronto re-wrote its by-law in 2016.

The “UBERSTRIKE” protest is scheduled for 10:30am in the parking lot of Uber Canada’s head office at 1980 Matheson Boulevard East, Unit A. The building has a large parking lot where cars are asked to gather; no streets are expected to be blocked as a result of the protest.

Limo/Uber Black driver and union organizer Muhammad Ejaz Butt is a key figure in Toronto’s September 28th UBERSTRIKE protest. Photo: supplied

Organizer Muhammad Ejaz Butt says the demands being made by the group, which is supported logistically and financially by the Ontario Federation of Labour and the  Food and Commercial Workers Union, are both reasonable and overdue.

“Uber came first to Toronto’s limousine drivers,” Ejaz explains, “and at the start, we could make $200 a day after exenses. Now, we are lucky to make $100 a day and half of that goes to expenses. If I work an eight hour day, I am lucky to make $50.”

Outlining the group’s demands, Ejaz says that they are not limited to compensation:

  1. Unfair deactivation: “If Uber decides to deactivate you, you are fired. That’s it. There is no process to discuss or find out what happened. It is completely one-sided.”
  2. Access to data: “Only Uber sees all the information about a ride. Drivers do not see what the customer paid, only what the driver gets paid. We want access to all of the data about our trips.”
  3. Driver safety and benefits if a driver is injured: “Right now, if a driver is assaulted by a fare or hurt in an accident, they earn nothing while they are off of work. This could be weeks while the driver has no income. Uber should compensate drivers who are injured while driving.”
  4. Uber needs to change its unfair rating system: “Especially with Uber Black, we pick up wealthy, busy business people in our SUVs. These guys are on their phones and their laptops the whole trip. When we arrive at the destination, they jump out of the vehicle and they are gone. They do not take time to rate their driver; they are too busy to rate their driver, they don’t even think of it. If you get 2 or 3 customers like that, your rating comes down, and if your rating reaches 4.69 you are kicked out of the system. It is totally unfair.”
  5. Driver classification: “Uber drivers should be classified as employees. There is a court case happening right now, arguing that Uber drivers should be employees.”
  6. Toronto’s by-laws regarding Private Transportation Company (PTC) by-laws: “There should be a limit on the number of vehicles for hire on the road. Toronto used to have about 6,000 taxis and limos; Ryerson University did a study and said that was enough. Now we have over 100,000.” Ejaz believes the solution is for Toronto to license 6,000 taxis with an additional 6,000 ride share vehicles “for short runs – $3 or $4 runs which did not exist before Uber.”

Second-generation Toronto taxi operator David Reti points out ruefully: “Amazing. Their current demands formed the basis of the regulatory system that was already in place. Who could have foreseen that we’d come full circle like this? If only someone had said something earlier.”

Ejaz says insurance rates for drivers carrying passengers for compensation is also an important issue for all drivers.