Taxi wages up to Ontario labour board, says Cornwall police board lawyer

Cornwall Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy, far left, listens to police chief Dan Parkinson, foreground left, during a Cornwall Police Services Board meeting at the Cornwall Civic Complex Wednesday, June 7, 2017. An issue over wages for city cabbies should be dealt with by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, according to a report from the police board lawyer. The meeting was held at the civic complex instead of city hall to allow room for a mock council meeting for a local high school. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The Cornwall Police Services Board has been advised by its lawyer, it would be premature for the board to address accusations of wage problems for city cab drivers.

In a report to the board Wednesday morning, Chief Dan Parkinson states the issue lies with the Ontario Labour Relations Board and drivers should be getting a determination from an Employment Standards Officer.

This legal advice follows an April meeting where local lawyer Etienne Saint-Aubin spoke about concerns with taxi drivers, who were being flagged during applications for social services because of their lack of take-home pay.

In one example, a driver was declaring earnings equivalent to $3.91 per hour – far below the minimum wage of $11.25.

He argued they should be paid minimum wage under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), while taxi companies believe drivers are independent contractors where ESA doesn’t apply.

Chief Parkinson says at this point, based on a legal review, it would be “premature” to act without a labour board investigation first.

The police board – which regulates the city taxi industry – has the power to revoke or suspend a taxi broker’s privileges.

“We done our due diligence to make we are on the right road. It’s not our responsibility to deal with this when it’s a labour relations issue,” said Andre Rivette, police board chairman, in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch.

Rivette said the lawyer’s advice will be shared with Saint-Aubin.

He said the board hasn’t discussed how it would act should the labour relations board identify a problem with pay for Cornwall cabbies.

“That is something, we can’t look in the future that way. If there’s an issue that comes up we will deal with it. But until such time we’re notified there’s an issue it’s pretty hard to even address that,” Rivette said.

Getting the legal opinion cost the police board $2,481.