Auckland Airport taxi drivers on hunger strike

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 14:27 09/12/2013
Fairfax NZ

Taxi drivers in Auckland are staging a protest over working conditions and taxi-rank positions at the city's airport.

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An alliance of 180 Auckland taxi drivers have begun a hunger strike at the Auckland International Airport headquarters as their industrial spat with the airport company continues.

The move is a reaction to a breakdown in negotiations over working conditions and taxi-rank positions between competing companies at the airport.

The Auckland Taxi Association (ATA), a collection of smaller taxi companies, negotiated better access to toilets, drinking water and sun shade at the international terminal two weeks ago.

The group said the hunger strike would continue until further demands were agreed to, including positioning the premium taxi rank further away from the arrivals hall and discouraging discriminatory and "racist" behaviour from the airport's security contractors.

The airport said the ATA representatives walked out of negotiations last week when no agreement could be reached on the positioning of a rival dedicated taxi rank at the international terminal used by Green Cabs and Auckland Co-Op taxis.

Both sides accused the other of lying through the media and shutting down dialogue.

Airport spokesman Richard Barker said the group was trying to reduce competition, by asking for the rival taxi rankto be moved further away from the international arrivals hall.

"That is the core issue for them. They have promised all of the problems will go away if the dedicated taxi rank goes back to its old, hidden space," he said

ATA members also want to raise the minimum inter-terminal fare from $20 to $35, which they say other companies already charge.

The association's spokesman Manmohan Singh said other larger taxi brands, like Green Cabs openly advertised their $35 charge, a claim the airport denied.

"Main-rank drivers are surviving on as little as $4 an hour," Singh said.

"The airport company is lying and putting out untruths in the media and we are sick of being treated so badly. We are treated like rubbish and slaves by ADT Security."

Singh said the security company would send taxi drivers home if they needed to leave their taxi in order to go to the toilet at the airport.

The airport said it had undertaken to appoint a dispute facilitator to resolve the situation between the drivers and security company.

Last Wednesday 50 drivers working for President Taxis were notified that President Taxis would no longer have a contract with the airport from tonight.

Auckland Airport said this was an unrelated matter that was signalled weeks ago and the licences for each of the drivers to operate at the airport would be re-approved instantly if they were employed by another operator.

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- Fairfax Media

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