Monday, September 15, 2008

Taxi brokers ready to strike

Fares not covering rising cost of gas

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Website:

A group of taxi brokers say they are willing to go on strike - thereby eliminating a majority of cabs on city streets - if the taxi commission doesn't find a way to help them deal with the rising price of gasoline.

First the car owners would have to unionize, something that has been brewing for some time. Broker Joe Boucher said there is enough support to do it.

The union wouldn't include drivers. It would represent the middle-men in the local taxi business - the people who own cars and then sell their services to the local taxi companies.

Boucher said he hopes for good news this week when the taxi commission meets.

"There's a war brewing. We're trying to avert it, but we don't know if we can," he said.

The brokers are expected to be at the commission meeting Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.

"We don't want to strike, but they may make us," said broker Dennis Robinson.

"We're basically sick of being the Rodney Dangerfields of the small business world."

In August, fares across the city went up, the first increase in almost two years. A large number of brokers say it didn't match the reality of doing business in the industry these days.

The brokers have argued that drivers should be allowed to use the "extra" button on the meter to add to the cost of riding in a taxi when the price of gas goes up. When pump prices fall, the extra charges would be dropped as well, the brokers say

"What we want is a contingency plan if [gas prices] go up," said taxi broker Bram Fisher.

He said that his cars lose up to $50 a day because fares haven't kept up with costs. A contingency plan, he said, would go a long way to easing the minds of taxi owners.

"That's the problem right now. There's no peace of mind," Fisher said.

Brokers, or plateholders, pay the city a yearly fee for the right to operate a taxi in Kingston. The brokers then pay the taxi companies for the right to use the company's signs on cars. The deal allows the brokers' cars to access travel contracts the company has in place.

Brokers also pay the drivers. Whatever is left from fares after covering those costs -along with gas, insurance and maintenance -is profit.

The brokers are likely to argue this week that the raise in rates, while a good start, needs to go farther to help the drivers and brokers, some of whom feel excluded from the decision-making process.

"We don't have a voice and we're sick and tired of getting crapped on," Boucher said. "The profit margin is being squeezed out."

The plateholders' union, if formed, would negotiate for rate increases with city hall and the taxi commission, Boucher said.

No comments: