Cab drivers prepare to strike Monday

Close to 800 drivers working for four cab companies are preparing to walk off the job Monday morning over disputes concerning insurance fines and costs

Taxis may be in short supply on Monday morning in Edmonton, with close to 800 cab drivers expected to walk off the job.

The United Cab Drivers Association of Edmonton, the union that represents drivers from Yellow, Barrel, Checker and Prestige cab companies, says they’ve served strike notice over complaints with high insurance.

Union president Balraj Menhas says even one accident can cost a driver thousands of dollars because of fines. (CBC News)

"I know [the public] will be affected. Unfortunately, it had to be this way," said union president Balraj Menhas.

Part of the issue, he says, are the heavy fines that drivers have to pay if they get in an accident on the job - a practice that puts a strain on drivers that he says are having trouble making ends meet.

"This is the first time I’ve ever heard of [fines] in this industry," Menhas said.

"If I got into an accident, even after 20 years of good record - no accidents, I still have to pay $6,200 at least in fines. Plus a $2,000 deductible. This is more than $8,000 for an accident."

Menhas said they’ve tried to talk to the companies about allowing drivers to choose their own insurance for their cars, but says that idea was dismissed.

The group that runs the four taxi companies could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Some drivers say that with the amount of time that cab spend on the roads, it’s unfair to punish drivers for accidents.

"Whether he slides into a snowbank in the winter or backs into a concrete pillar in the summer or backs into a car, these accidents are unavoidable," said driver and union treasurer David Froelich.

Drivers and the union are meeting discuss strategy Sunday. It’s not known what form the strike will take or how long it will go on, but they’re hoping to build support from customers.

"We are very happy to serve the public, but we need the public support on this," Menhas said.