Cabbies consider strike action

Whitehorse taxi drivers are threatening to strike because of changes the city wants to make to a bylaw governing cabbies. "We have to protect our customers," states a release given to the Yukon News by taxi operators.

Whitehorse taxi drivers are threatening to strike because of changes the city wants to make to a bylaw governing cabbies.

“We have to protect our customers,” states a release given to the Yukon News by taxi operators.

“If the whole taxi industry’s cost of operating is forced up, then the cost in the end will be passed on to customers.”

The strike is being backed by all taxi companies in the city except one, said a cab driver who didn’t want his name used for fear of retribution by bylaw services.

Monday evening, director of bylaw services John Taylor presented council with draft changes his department would like to make to the vehicle-for-hire bylaw.

These include increasing liability insurance for taxi companies to $3 million from $1 million and banning cabbies from using cellphones while driving.

“Cellphones should only be allowed with hands-free use,” the release reads.

“The two-way radio is just as bad as it requires the use of your hand while driving.”

Bylaw services wants to ban cellphones because it would make the industry safer, said Taylor on Monday.

Outlawing the phone would mean that cabbies could no longer dispatch and drive at the same.

This would require all companies to hire a 24-hour dispatcher, which few in the city have due to cost.

Rather than banning the cellphone, the city should just enforce legislation that already exists, say cabbies.

The current vehicle-for-hire bylaw already lays out rules around dispatching. It demands companies have a separate dispatcher to receive calls from a base station.

“Why does the city want to bring out new rules and regulations when they have not enforced what is already a good bylaw!” the release reads.

“Before a new one is looked at (the city) should show that they can enforce the present one.”

Thursday afternoon, bylaw services hadn’t heard of the potential strike.

“These are still proposed changes,” said Taylor.

“After city council votes on the issue (next Monday) it will be open for people to respond to.”

The liability insurance hike, which cabbies are most worried about, is necessary, he said.

“If you ever have an accident in a taxi cab and you have three people in it, $3 million isn’t going to go very far,” said Taylor.

“If a situation happens, we want everybody to be covered adequately,” he said.

“We don’t want the taxpayers of Whitehorse the ones being forced to pay the bill,” Taylor added, explaining the city is potentially liable for any civil suit involving taxi drivers.

In February 2008, the city held a meeting with taxi company operators.

“We tried to cover as many points as possible in that meeting, then drafted the bylaw,” said Taylor.

“Now it’s up to the industry and public to come forth and put forward their concerns.”

The revised bylaw will be released to the public on Tuesday, pending a vote from council.

The public will have until March 15th to respond to the proposed changes.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com