Angry drivers vow to defy in-car video
Installing video cameras in cabs could spark a citywide taxi strike, drivers warned yesterday following a raucous council meeting marked by angry shouting and a confrontation with city hall security.
With contract talks between drivers and the city’s largest taxi company, BlueLine, going poorly, national union representative Mohamed Alsadi warned that drivers would not install the cameras and that a new contract would not be ratified until the issue was resolved.
Drivers have privacy and cost issues with the in-car cameras, but despite two days of protests, city council voted yesterday for a bylaw requiring the cameras by July 2. Alsadi said there’s now a real threat of a taxi strike as a result.
“We have the money to deal with this issue,” he said. “We have … a strike fund. We have the right under the law to strike,” he said, noting that if BlueLine drivers strike, all 1,500 unionized drivers in Ottawa will follow.
Drivers left the meeting shouting at Mayor Larry O’Brien yesterday after the mayor reiterated his position that consumer safety was his priority and that drivers’ concerns were second.
Incensed drivers interpreted the mayor’s remarks to mean he considered them “second-class citizens” and they noisily stormed out of the meeting, where they had a tense encounter with security and police.
“I haven’t ever (heard) anything like that before. It was completely uncalled for,” Alsadi said of O’Brien’s remarks. “Unfortunately the head of the city doesn’t know how to deal with people who spend more than 10 hours a day in their cab trying to make a living in difficult conditions.”
O’Brien apologized afterward, though most drivers had already left.
“My intention was to state that the safety of the public should be council’s primary concern and the concerns of the drivers in relation to the installation of security cameras in taxis should be second,” he clarified.