Taxi protest called off on NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto

Taxi drivers planning to protest regarding the UberX ride-sharing service in Toronto have performed a U-Turn and decided to call off the protest. The movement was designed to disrupt the start of the NBA All-Star weekend on Friday, the first time the showpiece sporting event has ever been held outside of the USA.

The historic event gave taxi associations an ideal platform to highlight their fight against Uber, while disrupting the NBA weekend would have certainly sent a message to authorities, who are starting to play ball with Uber. However, Mayor John Tory spoke earlier in the week suggesting the protest would not get drivers the sympathy they want and that the picket should be called off.
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Interestingly, the union organizing the protest has backed down and in an unprecedented move has even hinted that authority pressure may be the reason why the protest is called off.

“Emotions overran us … There will be no strike for the NBA All-Star weekend,” Paul Sekhon, of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association, said on Wednesday at Toronto city hall.

Toronto averted the protest after Sekhon and other taxi industry representatives spoke to city councilors Kristyn Wong-Tam, Janet Davis and Glenn De Baeremaeker, a meeting that clearly cooled tensions for now. However, unions are warning that the city must get its house in order and solve the problem with UberX, which operates illegally in Toronto.

Drivers say the service provides unfair competition because its freelance drivers do not have to go through the same costs and regulatory licensing as taxi operatives. Unions say if Toronto does not solve the Uber problem then another protest will inevitably follow after this weekend.

“We’re not saying we’re calling (the protest) off forever,” said Sam Moini, president of the Fleet Operators Association.

It certainly helped the situation that the councilors involved in the meeting are opposed to UberX, in its current unregulated state at least. They urged consumers in Toronto to avoid using the ride-sharing service that connects passengers with freelance drivers through a smartphone app.

De Baeremaeker said “If you love somebody, do not let them get into an Uber taxi,” while describing UberX as illegal, unsafe, and unfair.