MONTREAL – Tensions over the controversial UberX ride-sharing service escalated on Thursday as a Montreal taxi driver smashed the cellphone of a fellow cabbie who he accused of working for Uber on the sly.
Taxi drivers held an impromptu afternoon media scrum at the Montreal courthouse, threatening to go on the hunt for cabbies who are doing business with Uber.
The scrum was held by self-described “Taxi Sheriff” Hassan Kattoua, who said the fight against Uber would escalate in Montreal.
“We have to make it clear to taxi drivers that are working with Uber, it’s totally unacceptable to work with a company that’s killing your business,” he said, brandishing a sheriff’s hat and silver-star badge.
Kattoua and his team quickly hailed a cabbie who was also using an Uber cellphone.
He had a brief conversation with the man, who was sitting in a van with a taxi dome, and then another man grabbed his cellphone.
Before the driver could get out of his car, the phone was smashed to pieces with a hammer.
The confused driver asked what he did wrong and the taxi drivers pointed the way to both the courthouse and city hall if he wanted to complain.
Kattuoa’s anger isn’t just directed at Uber drivers, he’s also upset at the Quebec government, who he accuses of enabling what he calls an illegal service.
“We have to make it clear to the government that if Uber wants to get in, they have to pay,” he told reporters.
“They don’t just get our jobs for free.”
Quebec’s Transport Minister, Jacques Daoust, said there will be a legislature commission on Uber.
It has already been banned in some European countries and was the subject of violent protests across the country.
The minister did not give a specific date for the hearings, but he said he hopes it happens “in the weeks to come.”
He also warned that “disruptive technologies” like Uber are probably here to stay, but that a solution has to be found.
“They have an injunction now,” Daoust said on Thursday.
Kattoua believes that it might not be as easy as that.
“How will you implement that? How will you stop uber.com. It’s not that easy,” he said.
He said taxi drivers will hold a demonstration on Feb. 10 and will again take the opportunity to physically chase after Uber drivers.