Drivers at Hamilton Cab vote to leave union

News Mar 29, 2016 by Steve Arnold The Hamilton Spectator

Drivers at one of the city's two taxi companies have voted to leave their union.

The drivers at Hamilton Cab voted earlier this month to abandon the Ontario Taxi Workers Union after years of failed efforts to accomplish any of its goals.

Sohail Yasin, one of the leaders of the decertification campaign, said the drive took hold after five years of "working day and night to try to make things better for the drivers we have nothing to show for it except more crises in the industry.

"I never heard anything, not a single word, from the leadership of the union about what we were trying to do," he said.

In addition to internal struggles, Yasin said Hamilton Cab drivers were concerned that the entire leadership of the union was composed of Blue Line drivers, but Hamilton Cab was the company being pushed toward a strike while Blue Line negotiations remain in limbo.

"That made most of the drivers suspicious," he said. "No one was really against the union, but we didn't want our competitor dictating what would happen here."

Current union president Ali Naimpoor did not return calls seeking comment.

Formed in 2009 and certified in 2011 as bargaining agent for the city's 1,000 tax drivers and plate holders, the OTWU was hobbled from the beginning by internal strife. That came to a head in August 2013 when founding president Ejaz Butt said he was forced to dismiss the union's board of directors and call for new elections after he was "shocked" to learn some members were receiving what he described as "secret" payments from the United Steelworkers.

(The OTWU had a service agreement with the USW to provide legal and bargaining support for the upstart, including paying lost wages for drivers on union business such as negotiations. Relations between Butt and the USW became so bitter the senior union issued a letter saying it would cancel its agreement with the taxi union if Butt remained in office.)

Directors responded by calling a membership meeting and impeaching Butt for what they called numerous violations of the constitution.

With that infighting in the background, Yasin said the union was never able to focus on getting a collective agreement with either Hamilton Cab or Blue Line.

"All of our frustrations were piling up and the union never did anything," Yasin claims.

The union had opened collective bargaining talks with Hamilton Cab and had applied to the Ontario Labour Relations board for an arbitrated settlement. That motion was tabled, however, when the decertification vote was sought.

Hamilton Cab president Jagtar Singh Chahal said the union was never more than a "nuisance that never did anything for its members."

While the Ontario Labour Relations Board has yet to issue its final decree ending the union at Hamilton Cab, the results of the vote showed 129 ballots against the union and 102 in favour. Another 23 ballots were disputed and are being challenged by the union. There were 421 members at Hamilton Cab.

"They just do not want to admit defeat," Chahal said.

The union remains alive at Blue Line, but vice-president Anthony Rizzuto said he has heard nothing from the union since January about further negotiations and has not been told of a similar decertification drive at his company "but I assume we'll follow suit."

"We've had minimal bargaining session because over the last year they seem to have just dwindled away," Rizzuto said. "On issues like Uber and the cost of insurance the union was nowhere to be seen so I think people just lost faith in the union."

sarnold@thespec.com

905-526-3496 | @arnoldatTheSpec

Drivers at Hamilton Cab vote to leave union

News Mar 29, 2016 by Steve Arnold The Hamilton Spectator

Drivers at one of the city's two taxi companies have voted to leave their union.

The drivers at Hamilton Cab voted earlier this month to abandon the Ontario Taxi Workers Union after years of failed efforts to accomplish any of its goals.

Sohail Yasin, one of the leaders of the decertification campaign, said the drive took hold after five years of "working day and night to try to make things better for the drivers we have nothing to show for it except more crises in the industry.

"I never heard anything, not a single word, from the leadership of the union about what we were trying to do," he said.

In addition to internal struggles, Yasin said Hamilton Cab drivers were concerned that the entire leadership of the union was composed of Blue Line drivers, but Hamilton Cab was the company being pushed toward a strike while Blue Line negotiations remain in limbo.

"That made most of the drivers suspicious," he said. "No one was really against the union, but we didn't want our competitor dictating what would happen here."

Current union president Ali Naimpoor did not return calls seeking comment.

Formed in 2009 and certified in 2011 as bargaining agent for the city's 1,000 tax drivers and plate holders, the OTWU was hobbled from the beginning by internal strife. That came to a head in August 2013 when founding president Ejaz Butt said he was forced to dismiss the union's board of directors and call for new elections after he was "shocked" to learn some members were receiving what he described as "secret" payments from the United Steelworkers.

(The OTWU had a service agreement with the USW to provide legal and bargaining support for the upstart, including paying lost wages for drivers on union business such as negotiations. Relations between Butt and the USW became so bitter the senior union issued a letter saying it would cancel its agreement with the taxi union if Butt remained in office.)

Directors responded by calling a membership meeting and impeaching Butt for what they called numerous violations of the constitution.

With that infighting in the background, Yasin said the union was never able to focus on getting a collective agreement with either Hamilton Cab or Blue Line.

"All of our frustrations were piling up and the union never did anything," Yasin claims.

The union had opened collective bargaining talks with Hamilton Cab and had applied to the Ontario Labour Relations board for an arbitrated settlement. That motion was tabled, however, when the decertification vote was sought.

Hamilton Cab president Jagtar Singh Chahal said the union was never more than a "nuisance that never did anything for its members."

While the Ontario Labour Relations Board has yet to issue its final decree ending the union at Hamilton Cab, the results of the vote showed 129 ballots against the union and 102 in favour. Another 23 ballots were disputed and are being challenged by the union. There were 421 members at Hamilton Cab.

"They just do not want to admit defeat," Chahal said.

The union remains alive at Blue Line, but vice-president Anthony Rizzuto said he has heard nothing from the union since January about further negotiations and has not been told of a similar decertification drive at his company "but I assume we'll follow suit."

"We've had minimal bargaining session because over the last year they seem to have just dwindled away," Rizzuto said. "On issues like Uber and the cost of insurance the union was nowhere to be seen so I think people just lost faith in the union."

sarnold@thespec.com

905-526-3496 | @arnoldatTheSpec

Drivers at Hamilton Cab vote to leave union

News Mar 29, 2016 by Steve Arnold The Hamilton Spectator

Drivers at one of the city's two taxi companies have voted to leave their union.

The drivers at Hamilton Cab voted earlier this month to abandon the Ontario Taxi Workers Union after years of failed efforts to accomplish any of its goals.

Sohail Yasin, one of the leaders of the decertification campaign, said the drive took hold after five years of "working day and night to try to make things better for the drivers we have nothing to show for it except more crises in the industry.

"I never heard anything, not a single word, from the leadership of the union about what we were trying to do," he said.

In addition to internal struggles, Yasin said Hamilton Cab drivers were concerned that the entire leadership of the union was composed of Blue Line drivers, but Hamilton Cab was the company being pushed toward a strike while Blue Line negotiations remain in limbo.

"That made most of the drivers suspicious," he said. "No one was really against the union, but we didn't want our competitor dictating what would happen here."

Current union president Ali Naimpoor did not return calls seeking comment.

Formed in 2009 and certified in 2011 as bargaining agent for the city's 1,000 tax drivers and plate holders, the OTWU was hobbled from the beginning by internal strife. That came to a head in August 2013 when founding president Ejaz Butt said he was forced to dismiss the union's board of directors and call for new elections after he was "shocked" to learn some members were receiving what he described as "secret" payments from the United Steelworkers.

(The OTWU had a service agreement with the USW to provide legal and bargaining support for the upstart, including paying lost wages for drivers on union business such as negotiations. Relations between Butt and the USW became so bitter the senior union issued a letter saying it would cancel its agreement with the taxi union if Butt remained in office.)

Directors responded by calling a membership meeting and impeaching Butt for what they called numerous violations of the constitution.

With that infighting in the background, Yasin said the union was never able to focus on getting a collective agreement with either Hamilton Cab or Blue Line.

"All of our frustrations were piling up and the union never did anything," Yasin claims.

The union had opened collective bargaining talks with Hamilton Cab and had applied to the Ontario Labour Relations board for an arbitrated settlement. That motion was tabled, however, when the decertification vote was sought.

Hamilton Cab president Jagtar Singh Chahal said the union was never more than a "nuisance that never did anything for its members."

While the Ontario Labour Relations Board has yet to issue its final decree ending the union at Hamilton Cab, the results of the vote showed 129 ballots against the union and 102 in favour. Another 23 ballots were disputed and are being challenged by the union. There were 421 members at Hamilton Cab.

"They just do not want to admit defeat," Chahal said.

The union remains alive at Blue Line, but vice-president Anthony Rizzuto said he has heard nothing from the union since January about further negotiations and has not been told of a similar decertification drive at his company "but I assume we'll follow suit."

"We've had minimal bargaining session because over the last year they seem to have just dwindled away," Rizzuto said. "On issues like Uber and the cost of insurance the union was nowhere to be seen so I think people just lost faith in the union."

sarnold@thespec.com

905-526-3496 | @arnoldatTheSpec