Windsor cab drivers feeling pinch at the pump, union looks to city for relief

·2 min read
Vets Cab drivers say high fuel prices are eating into their profits, and the union representing them says relief may only come in fare increases. However, the company has to agree, as well as the City of Windsor. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
Vets Cab drivers say high fuel prices are eating into their profits, and the union representing them says relief may only come in fare increases. However, the company has to agree, as well as the City of Windsor. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

Cab drivers in Windsor say they're eating the costs of rising gas prices, while the union representing the workers is looking to the city to help offer some relief.

Prices at the pump have been more than $2 per litre in Windsor-Essex in recent weeks.

Driver Saleh Babekir tells CBC News he pays $30 each day on fuel for a very small car.

"It's very hard," he said. "The price of the gas it's a lot for all the cab drivers, all the fleet."

Drivers like Babekir pay for their fuel, on top of other hefty fees — as much as roughly $590 in the summer months and $665 in the winter, per week to Vets Cab. That fee was negotiated last year in the collective agreement with the employer, before fuel prices began to surge.

Those gas prices are eating into drivers' profits, said Emile Nabbout, president of Unifor Local 195 which represents Vets Cab drivers, who make up the majority of taxi operators in Windsor.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

"This is an unprecedented challenge to the drivers we represent here in the City of Windsor creating lots of trouble, we consider it is a crisis for our drivers," said Nabbout.

"If [a passenger] steps in a car and you have a short trip for a couple kilometres, basically you'll be losing money."

To help find some relief for drivers, Nabbout approached the city's deputy licensing commissioner to ask for relief for drivers.

However, Craig Robertson told the union they must make a joint submission, along with Vets Cabs, if they want a fare increase.

"Meter rate increases are generally initiated by the industry, so it would be the responsibility of the industry to come forward with those costs," Robertson said.

The current meter rate is $3.80, and rates have not risen in the city since 2008, said Nabbout, though in 2015 they did adjust the tax portion.

Nabbout said Vets Cab told the union they would be interested in approaching the city for a meter increase, but he said the company wants to reopen the collective agreement to be able to charge drivers even more fees. This would not help the drivers facing increased fuel costs, and the union also does not want to charge passengers more.

When contacted by CBC News for comment, Vets Cab declined an interview.

LISTEN | Hear more from Nabbout about the potential fare increase:

Robertson said a fare increase would be permanent, not tied to current gas prices. So if fuel decreases in future, fares would remain the same

The union is hoping to convince the Vets Cab company to approach the city with them for a meter rate increase, but insist any increases should go to the drivers.

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