Beck Taxi is urging its drivers not to participate in a strike to protest against Uber during the upcoming NBA All-Star Game in Toronto this weekend.
"In short, don't do it," Gail Beck-Souter, the president of the cab company, wrote in a note to drivers. "Some may want to convince you a protest that upsets this big event would help us get our message out. They are wrong. It would only hurt our valued customers and give Uber exactly what they want."
Toronto taxis are heavily regulated but Uber — and in particular its ride-hailing app UberX — connects paying passengers with private cars that provide a taxi-like service for a fee. Cabbies have complained they can't compete with Uber, which they say is operating illegally while they're forced to play by the rules.
"We're all struggling and dying out there because illegals are killing us," Paul Sekhon of the United Taxi Workers Association told CBC News Monday. The new umbrella group of Ontario-wide taxi industry organizations was formed in response to the presence of UberX.
Beck-Souter, who discouraged her drivers from taking part in a protest that brought downtown traffic to a halt last December, told her drivers she empathizes with them and that "no one values the dedication you've made to this industry and the people of Toronto.
"But I want you to know that I value your contribution and I'm going to keep fighting for you."
Beck-Souter said she is going to write to her drivers every day this week to avoid taking part in a protest.
"I know in my heart of hearts there is a better way to accomplish our goals," she wrote.
On Monday, Mayor John Tory said police will have to take "whatever steps they deem appropriate" to deal with any disruption by taxi drivers.
Last week, city council voted against seeking a court injunction to stop UberX from operating, opting instead to wait until new rules are in place. At the time, city staff said they are actively ticketing drivers who operate as a taxi service without the a proper city-issued licence.
Last year, an attempt by the city to obtain an injunction failed when the judge ruled that city bylaws did not apply to UberX.
City staff are expected to present council with new regulations aimed at covering both Uber and taxis sometime this April.