Montreal taxi drivers to strike, block traffic Wednesday

Hundreds of Montreal taxi drivers plan to strike Wednesday, vowing to block traffic to send a message to the province that the ride-hailing service UberX should be outlawed.

Taxi drivers pledge to 'block access to areas where illegal transporters pick up clients'

Montreal taxi driver Fred Previlon will take the day off on Wednesday to take part in the city-wide protest. (Morgan Dunlop/CBC)

Hundreds of Montreal taxi drivers plan to strike Wednesday, vowing to block traffic to send a message to the province that the ride-hailing service UberX should be outlawed.

Drivers will be blocking roads starting at 6:30 a.m., according to the Regroupment des travailleurs autonomes metallos (RTAM), the union representing Montreal's 4,000 taxi drivers.

Squads of taxis will block access to areas where "illegal transporters" drop and pick up passengers, according to RTAM.  The exact areas that will be affected will only be announced Wednesday morning. Some taxis will still be available for clients.

No bridges or hospitals will be blocked. Montreal police sent a news release Tuesday reminding drivers that it is illegal to block access to airports as well.

George Boussios, the president of Champlain Taxi, which has a fleet of 400 vehicles, told CBC that Champlain taxis would not block streets.

Champlain taxis will be at stands Wednesday, but drivers will refuse to transport clients.  

Transport Minister Jacques Daoust said Monday he understood taxi drivers' frustrations, and he many intervene "in the coming hours or days" to try to calm the situation.

Several taxis protest againt UberX outside the National Assembly in Quebec City Tuesday morning. (Radio Canada/Cimon LeBlanc)

Protest necessary, union says

The group representing taxi drivers said the pressure tactic is necessary.

The province failed to honour its "simple demand to have Uber cease operations during the parliamentary commission looking into the matter," said RTAM spokesman Benoit Jugand.

Last week, Quebec's new transport minister, Jacques Daoust, said that Uber and other technologies are "here to stay" and called for a parliamentary commission to study how to level the playing field between taxis and ride-hailing apps.

The hearings are set to begin later this month.

'Nothing's going to change'

Fred Previlon, who has been driving a taxi for 13 years, will be one of the drivers taking part in the protest.

He told CBC that six years ago, he bought a taxi licence for $210,000. He tried to sell it two months ago for $165,000, and no one would buy it.

"Nothing's going to change … Couillard says one thing today, he says another thing tomorrow. We are many immigrants. The government doesn't care about us," Previlon said.

RTAM said that more pressure tactics will follow.

Last week, the group filed a request for a permanent injunction. It's asking the court to declare Uber illegal, forcing the company to cease operations and to disable its mobile app in Quebec.

Uber out on the road

Uber said its drivers will be out on the roads tomorrow during the taxi drivers' protest.

"UberX drivers will be on the road to offer its services to Quebecers," said Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for Uber Canada. "We would be happy to speak with the taxi industry to find sensible solutions that puts the consumers' interests first."

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