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Toronto WheelTrans Contract Workers Fight Unfair Wages

Another Job Action to Take Place on August 19th

by Brad Evoy

Co-Op Taxi is one of the major service brokers entangled in this current dispute. (PHOTO: Gary J. Wood, Creative Commons)
Co-Op Taxi is one of the major service brokers entangled in this current dispute. (PHOTO: Gary J. Wood, Creative Commons)

Following a nearly month-long job action, Toronto WheelTrans contract workers are still without redress for their concerns about cuts by the city and unfair wages.

Seventy current contract WheelTrans drivers have engaged in a voluntary work stoppage over the month of July due to the fact that the four brokerages involved in accessible taxi and sedan operations have proposed contracts “that seek a wage decrease of 13%, pushing drivers well below the minimum wage”, according to the iTaxiworkers Association, a collective of taxi and sedan drivers for the brokerages.

Around one hundred workers in the City of Toronto operate taxis and sedans that make up a large portion of the Toronto Transit Commission’s WheelTrans accessible transit service. While the City has contracts with taxi companies such as Co-Op Taxi and Scarbrough Cabs to operate accessible services, these companies in turn put forward individual contracts to each driver that operates a vehicle. While the City does not directly determine the wages of drivers, its funding cuts can heavily impact these drivers and users of said service alike.

May Lui of iTaxiworkers Association explains that “the new contract that began on July 6 has a reduction of 30 cents per kilometer for what the drivers are paid for. This results in approximately $1,000 less income per driver per month, a significant decrease”. These minimum five-year contracts have been shaped by cuts to WheelTrans service by the TTC Board.

The root cause of these issues can be found in the way that changes have been made to the budgeting process for this aspect of WheelTrans services. In the City’s request for proposals for accessible taxi and sedan service, the amount which brokers are required to pay drivers shifted from $2.86 per kilometre to $2.50. As well, in January, the TTC Board determined to cut upset limit amounts by five thousand dollars (shifting the award per broker contract from $35,000 to $30,000). This is in spite of an earlier recommendation in December 2012 to increase these very same limits for each of these contracts by $18,000.

As noted in the recent 2014 WheelTrans budget report, “[t]he available capacity of both accessible taxis and sedans is a fundamental tool used to carry smaller groups of customers and to adjust service when disruptions occur”. Yet, when it comes to the fundamental needs of contract drivers for the service, the TTC and City seem to take matters much less seriously.

Lui believes that “it is deplorable that their wages would be so drastically reduced” at a time when costs are continually rising for drivers to maintain their livelihoods. “[I]t’s completely understandable that the drivers didn’t want to get themselves locked into a possible 7-year contract on wages that are unlivable”.

Wages that, according to iTaxiworkers, violates the City’s Fair Wage Policy, which applies to contractors and subcontractors to ensure livable and equitable wages for City work. The violation, at least in the spirit of the policy due to unclear exemptions surrounding the TTC, arises due to the brokerages large reduction of pay for drivers. In effect, this places contract drivers in a similar position to other industries governed by the policy, whose wages have only been correctly placed above the provincial minimum wage due to changes made to the policy in 2013.

For contract drivers and iTaxiworkers, however, the battle to secure livable wages for members is far from over. During the July job action, brokerages lost thousands of dollars due to fines leverages due to inadequate service delivery according to their contracts with the TTC. On August 19th, the drivers will again be taking up a job action during the TTC Board’s meeting to be held on that day and continued until demands are met.

 


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Brad Evoy (Brad Evoy)
Toronto
Member since October 2013

About:

Brad Evoy is a graduate student at the University of Toronto, blogger, writer, commentator, and sometimes firebrand. He has served as one of the Summer Membership and Admin. Coordinators for the Toronto Media Co-op and in the past has written for various other publications. Meanwhile, as an organizer, he's associated with the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG-Toronto) and Scientists for the Right to Know, along with past associations with various student organizations in two provinces.

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