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Taxi drivers glued to every minute of $215M lawsuit against city

by News Desk
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Taxi drivers awaiting fares at travel hubs, hotels and shopping malls in the city are monitoring and settling a long-awaited industry lawsuit against the City of Ottawa.

$215 million lawsuit It alleges that the city failed to take reasonable steps to protect taxi stand owners. When you approve Uber It is the first ride-hailing company to operate legally in September 2016.

A license plate issued by the city is required to drive a taxi. Due to their limited number, the plate’s owner planned to retire with the idea that it could be sold for a significant sum. After Uber entered the market, that changed.

now, More than 16 years since Capital Taxi’s parent company filed suitit’s finally time for the hearing.

Four weeks into the lawsuit, which is expected to last at least seven weeks, taxi drivers are now listening to court proceedings on Zoom, stopping by real courtrooms when they have time, and analyzing what they hear in WhatsApp groups. doing.

Ghassan Skaff — 35 years as a taxi driver

Skaff said he has been following the case online and will go to court when the opportunity arises. (Sarah Frizel/CBC)

The Skaff family is interested in the outcome of this lawsuit. He was driving with his wife’s plate on Monday, but his two of his brothers also own plates.

“We’re crossing our fingers… hopefully this is our last chance and something can help drivers,” he said.

“We have suffered for a long time, and we have waited a long time for this.”

He said he has followed the case online and will take it to court when the opportunity arises.

“Just because we’ve been silent doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It did. But now that it’s public, it’s being taken to court.”

Yes, just a gesture of them acknowledging that we have been abused would be nice.– Gassan Skaf, Taxi Driver

Skaff said that whatever the outcome of the lawsuit would be the end of many drivers’ careers.

“A lot of people are quitting. You know, nobody wants to work forever.”

Skaff sold the house he and his brother owned in 2005 and purchased a taxi stand for $160,000. The plate is currently worth $6,000.

Watch | Taxi Drivers Focus on Legal Proceedings:

‘We’re crossing our fingers’: Taxi drivers keeping an eye on industry legal proceedings

Ghassan Skaff and George Alkhouri explained how the taxi industry has changed since the introduction of Uber. Skaff said he was following the court proceedings of the industry’s lawsuit against the city of Ottawa “every minute.”

He said he bought the plate because he wanted stable employment, but then the city changed the rules with Uber.

“It hurt me and a lot of my other friends. If we can get something out of the lawsuit, that’s fine. I mean, even if it’s just a gesture that they realize we’ve been abused.” prize.”

He said the city needs to be made aware of the services it loses when drivers can’t make a living.

“There are a lot of seniors who need to go to the hospital. There are a lot of them. They can’t take Uber.”

George Arcoli — Taxi driver for 33 years

A man in a hat stands in front of a taxi.
Alkhouri, 62, has been driving a taxi for 33 years. He bought a taxi license plate for about $100,000. (Sarah Frizel/CBC)

Alkhouri was a captain before coming to Canada to avoid war in Lebanon. He wanted to continue with it, but the family here persuaded him to become a taxi driver.

He purchased the plate from the late driver’s wife in 1990 for around $85,000. He paid it off in installments of $1,000 monthly over several years.

After paying off his debt, Alkhouri continued to drive 16 hours a day to pay off his mortgage and send his four children to college. He still helps his youngest son in Montreal, but he wants to head into retirement.

He said he can’t keep up with the long days now that he’s 62, but he’s still out 10 to 12 hours a day.

Alkhouri estimates that taxi drivers have lost about 60% of their business to Uber.

Things have slowed down painfully during the pandemic. So he used his wife’s car to drive his Uber Eats for a while.

We rely entirely on plate prices and rentals.– Garish Berri, taxi driver

“Working as a delivery was not easy. I’m not young,” said Alkhouri.

Now his wife is back at work and that’s not an option.

He said people take more taxis in the winter, so he can pay the bills with help from his wife’s salary this month.

“Now everything has changed. Before [when] I’ll be like 65 and I’ll borrow a plate and rent it with my pension [I’d be] have understood. nothing nowplate [is worth] zero. nobody borrows. I can’t find anyone to share with me. ”

He said he understands why new drivers aren’t entering the industry. Alkhouri estimates he’s making about $5 an hour these days, but business is still slow as federal workers mostly work from home.

Garish Beri — Taxi driver for nearly 40 years

The man in the driver's seat turned to the back seat of the taxi.
Berry has been driving taxis for nearly 40 years. He is worried that he will have to drive a taxi for 20 minutes. (Sarah Frizel/CBC)

Berri began dropping out of college in 1983. This was when a friend of his suggested he could make some decent money.

“It’s free. You can work as long as you want and you won’t go bankrupt…but you had to spend a lot of time making money, that’s for sure,” Berri said.

He saved up and bought a taxi plate in 1991 for about $100,000.

The city required him to take a three-week taxi course at Algonquin College. The course covered customer service and interacting with customers with disabilities and cost him $1,200. Uber drivers did not have to receive this.

“I’m 61 now. I have to work until I’m 80. [old] There will be no retirement,” Berri said.

Berry actually has an 80-year-old friend for whom he still drives a taxi.

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