Ontario, Canada – Taxi driver Jafar Mirsalari is an essential worker they don’t blare sirens or horns for at the end of each working day.
He is, however, the one who drives the much-deserving medical workers to and from their hot-zone workplaces.
And their potential patients with COVID-19, or those who are on their way to be tested for the novel coronavirus.
“We do what we can to do our part,” said Mirsalari, who has been driving for Beck Taxi for a decade, and cabs for 32 years in total.
But it’s no picnic. To help such workers, taxi companies, including Beck, have halved their brokerage fees. But it’s still not easy to make ends meet.
“We still have our grocery and food deliveries, and taking people to and from the hospital, but runs to the airport or trips home from sports, shows, restaurants and bars are all gone.”
No tips. No pats on the back. No thanks.
This is why Beck is only operating at 25% while the rest of its fleet is parked – that and the fear of contracting the virus many drivers with compromised immunity systems face.
“Every season is flu season for taxi drivers,” explains Beck’s operations manager, Kristine Hubbard.
But with COVID-19, to say taxi operators are at the front lines of this battle doesn’t go far enough. So far, so good as the company has not had a driver test positive, but they worry every day.
“It is scary,” Mirsalari said.
He’s picked up people from emergency departments “who were coughing” and appearing to be ill. He wore his mask that a regular customer gave him, had his gloves on and had his sterilization spray handy.
“One woman who seemed really sick said she was tested, but it was negative,” Mirsalari said. “But how do you now for sure?”
Either way, there is no extra pay for these essential workers.
“But it’s not just about money,” Mirsalari said.
Some acknowledgement of the contributions taxi drivers are making in these risky times is long overdue. Mirsalari and other drivers are playing their role. That said, there’s some assistance the city could provide that sure would make a difference.
“It would great if the City of Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) would waive our renewal fees,” Mirsalari said.
Hubbard showed me the notices drivers are receiving – something she said is the only communication the city has had with drivers.
“As you are already aware, our office remains temporarily closed due to COVID-19 and we are accepting renewal payments online,” said a notice from MLS.
Throw in the cost of insurance that has also not been reduced and it adds up to tough times, Hubbard said.
“It’s ludicrous,” she said of the fees not being waived, or at least reduced. “In Jafar’s case, he would have to pay both. Just over $1,000 for his vehicle and an additional $195.00 for the ability to drive his own taxi. Uber and Lyft vehicles don’t even require a license to operate.”
Perhaps government could help drivers with the same kind of consideration offered to the newly arrived, hard-working foreign temporary workers, or repatriated Canadians of convenience who hadn’t been back to Canada in years.
Either way, Mirsalari is not the kind of guy to quit in the middle of any storm. As a teacher, he was jailed in the 1980s in his home country of Iran for not following closely enough the regime-approved curriculum and made his way to Canada with nothing but dreams of freedom.
As long as people need him to drive, he will suit up to help during this pandemic.
And without a cheering section.
– Source: Joe Warmington – torontosun.com