On April 13, Muhammad Umar, a taxi driver from Regina Cabs, suffered a violent attack where he received multiple stab wounds to the throat, chest and stomach. The attack serves as a reminder of the stabbing of Regina cab driver Iqbal Singh Sharma in 2016 who was left as a paraplegic after the incident.
After these two violent attacks and “multiple incidents of assault,” the United Steelworkers (USW) is calling on municipal and provincial governments to take action on taxi driver safety.
"Not only does everyone have a right to come home safely, but all workers hurt on the job deserve access to workers' compensation and we are working to make sure that happens,” said Patrick Veinot, USW staff representative.
There is a wide variety of models when it comes to the employment relationships for cab drivers. Some own their cab and are self-employed, some are receiving a salary from the cab companies with source deductions and others may be owner-operators with multiple cab licenses. This means many individuals are not covered under workers’ compensation, which requires an employer-employee relationship.
“People that would be regarded as self employed — and as such have no coverage — they probably don’t know that they don’t have coverage,” said Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan. “So I think it would be a good idea if we could have WCB do some public awareness… We would want to put some information out so people know.”
The Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) will also be looking at all the coverage options and reviewing best practices, Morgan said, adding it might be time for a more sophisticated approach.
The board will be reviewing the effectiveness of having shields in cabs that separate the driver from the back seat. This is something the government could make mandatory in cabs. Drivers and cab companies will be consulted before any decision is made.
The reality is the attacks on Umar and Sharma are just the ones that make the headlines, according to Mohamed Ameer who also drives for Regina Cabs.
"Drivers in this city face verbal and physical assaults on a daily basis. We need safer working conditions for all taxi drivers,” he said. “I want changes to be made before I watch another co-worker suffer a preventable injury."