Airport taxi drivers protesting

David Kawai / Ottawa Citizen

Airport Taxi drivers have ended their surprise two-hour roadblocking protest on Bronson Avenue, allowing traffic to move normally again.

“It’s just a matter of clearing up the traffic,” an Ottawa police officer said about 5:30 p.m.

The protest began about 3:30 p.m. Thursday with the unionized drivers deliberately driving slowly and tying up traffic behind them as they proceeded southbound from the Airport Parkway to Bronson Avenue.

By 4 p.m. they had blocked Bronson at Sunnyside Avenue, at the Carleton University entrance. That action caused a massive traffic blockage that effectively blocked the entrance to Carleton University just as the late afternoon rush hour began.

The situation was made worse with some placard-waving drivers walking on the road beside the taxis cars, further impeding traffic. “We are not going anywhere!” drivers posted on their union’s Twitter site. “Rain or not! We are here to stay!”

Police were on hand to keep control of the situation and direct traffic as best they could, and hand out tickets to some of the taxi drivers.

They were eventually able to get one lane and then two open to traffic. Nonetheless, traffic was still backed up all the way to Gladstone Avenue for a time.

The protest, which came a day before Friday’s so-called day of action, began breaking up about 5:30 p.m. as the cabbies drove away.

Jerry Dias, the president of Unifor, the national union presenting Ottawa’s cab drivers, said Thursday’s protest was in response to a meeting with Coventry Connections.

To end the labour action, the union said they made a proposal to Coventry Connections to abandon the open-market concept that allows any driver to pick up fares at the airport as long as they agree to pay the fee.

Dias said the union proposed that the drivers previously branded as airport fleet and Blueline Taxi drivers should have the rights to pick up fares at the airport.

According to Dias, Coventry Connections said no to the proposal because they also wanted Capital Taxi drivers included in the agreement.

“This is all about the value of their plates,” Dias said. The local president of the unit representing airport taxi drivers could not be reached for comment.

Hanif Panti, the owner of Coventry Connections, said they met with the union Thursday but they won’t say whether they responded to the proposal.

“We have always kept our door open to speaking with the union and we remain on that mode,” Patni said. “Many approaches have been discussed. Some make sense to us. Some don’t make sense to us.”

Source: Ottawa Citizen