Saskatoon

Cab drivers call for insurance break during pandemic

Senos Timon drives an wheelchair accessible cab in Saskatoon and says a reduction in insurance fees would “go a long way.”

The request was officially made to Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave on April 1

Senos Timon, who drives a wheelchair accessible taxi in Saskatoon, says a reduction in SGI insurance costs would go a long way in helping him through the pandemic. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

Cab drivers in Saskatoon are calling for a reduction in Saskatchewan Government Insurance costs to ensure they can keep driving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

United Steelworkers Local 2014, which represents cab drivers in Saskatoon, sent a letter to Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave on April 1 asking for a temporary 50 per cent reduction in SGI rates for taxis. 

"Taxis provide a public service, and for some of the most vulnerable in our communities, older people, and people with disabilities, they rely on taxis to go get groceries, attend medical appointments among other activities," said the letter, signed by USW 2014 president Malik Draz. 

Draz wrote that cab drivers have seen a "drastic drop" in fares, with many not making enough income to cover the basic costs of running their car. 

"Supporting taxi drivers is supporting our community," said Draz in the letter.

On Thursday morning, Draz said in an interview that he has not heard anything back from SGI or Hargrave.

Information from SGI indicates insurance rates for Saskatoon taxis is $4,437 annually, which breaks down to roughly $370 per month. SGI also noted that taxis can qualify for a discounted rate based on past claims over the last five years, with discounts as high as 15 per cent.

SGI said it's working to help those who have been hurt financially as a result of the pandemic. 

"SGI is well aware that many of its customers, whether taxi drivers or otherwise, will be facing financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and staff at SGI's Customer Service Centre are happy to work with customers to find solutions," a statement said.

SGI said if customers are unable to make monthly payments on their vehicle registration, SGI can work with them to adjust payment plans. The statement also advised that if customers are planning to park their taxi, they can cancel their registration on the vehicle so that they're not paying a full premium for a vehicle they're not using. 

The Crown corporation also suggested that drivers who plan to stop using their vehicle as a taxi can change the class the vehicle is registered in, resulting in them paying a lower rate.

The letter from the United Steelworkers that was sent to Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave on April 1, 2020. (Supplied/Malik Draz)

Senos Timon, who drives a wheelchair accessible cab in Saskatoon, said a reduction in insurance fees would "go a long way." He said the last thing he wants to do is shut down his cab, as many of his customers see it as a critical service. 

Timon said he's risking his own life and the life of his family to ensure people in Saskatoon are still getting the services they need, with many of his passengers getting rides to critical appointments to pick up medication or get dialysis. 

"We don't want to shut our doors," he said. "We don't want to shut out the service, because we know that our service, we need to help the community." 

Timon also said the reduction would be a gesture to show cab drivers that the government appreciates the work they're doing during the pandemic.

"I think that will go a long way to build that trust and understanding how government values our work," he said.

Draz said that with high-traffic venues like concerts, bars and restaurants shut down due to COVID-19, taxi drivers need support. 

"The drivers who are driving on the road at this time, they need a break too, so at least they can bring food to the table."

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