Cost and privacy are the two major issues that have the cab drivers up in arms. “Our people feel that the camera is going to be used to discipline drivers,” says Mohamad Alsadi, a national representative of the Canadian Auto Workers Union. Drivers were told that the cameras would cost between $700 and $1,000, but the price has climbed to $1,500. Drivers have been charging an extra 5 cents surcharge on all fares to help fund the cameras, but the difference in cost will have to be paid by drivers/owners of the cars.
As a result of the protest and a subsequent city council meeting , the date that drivers are required to have cameras installed by has been moved to July 2, 2008. The mayor threatened that taxi drivers would risk having their licenses lifted if they refused to have the cameras installed. In the meeting, mayor O’Brian stated, “The key issue in terms of my decision-making was related to public safety. A secondary issue was the safety of the drivers.” This slightly thoughtless statement may explain why a large number of drivers believe that the bylaw is discriminatory. Following the meeting, the mayor’s office released a statement to clarify his comment about public safety. It said the cameras are for the benefit of both the public and drivers equally, and the mayor apologized for any confusion his comments may have caused.
Advantages of taxi security camera include protection for the drivers, deterrent for potential violence, and prevention of robberies. According to Stats Canada for the period 2001 to 2005, cab driving was the most dangerous work-related job in Canada. Cab drivers work all hours of the night and in all neighborhoods. They put themselves at the mercy of their passengers. Between 2001 and 2003, crimes against Manitoba city taxi drivers dropped 79% after security cameras were installed and mandated by the city. At the same time, the cameras monitor driver behavior as well. Passengers aren’t the only ones with the potential to act out of line in a taxi cab. Drivers can also be guilty on occasion. Taxi cameras help to ensure that cab drivers carry out their duties in a professional manner. In cases where violent confrontations or robberies do take place, in-cab security cameras can provide valuable video evidence for criminal investigations.
The drivers union claims they won’t cave on this issue and have not ruled out the possibility of a strike. The city council representative stated that the drivers concerns of cost and privacy are being addressed, but as it stands the bylaw will be enforced starting July 2, 2008. Ottawa residents may find it difficult to find a cab come July.