Taxi drivers to step up hunger strike

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 15:59 10/12/2013

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Hunger striking taxi drivers at Auckland International Airport say they will double in number each day that the airport refuses to talk to them.

The group's spokesman, Manmohan Singh, said 10 taxi drivers were on hunger strike out of the 180 drivers and supporters gathered outside the airport company's headquarters.

Singh said the drivers remained dedicated to the cause after spending their first night sleeping on the ground.

"We will continue until there is justice. We have the full support of the unions and many in the community," he said.

The drivers are part of the Auckland Taxi Association (ATA), made up of smaller taxi firms involved in a dispute with the airport over working conditions and taxi-rank positions between competing companies.

ATA negotiated better access to toilets, drinking water and sun shade at the international terminal two weeks ago.

But negotiations broke down over the position of competing taxi ranks outside the terminal.

The drivers are demanding that the airport move the competing premium taxi rank further from the international terminal arrivals hall.

Singh said premium taxis were unfairly taking most of the incoming tourist business.

"Things got pretty desperate. We used to make about $10 an hour and work 70 hours a week, now it is more like $4 an hour.

Singh said the airport company had refused to speak with them while talking "absolute b......." to the media.

"The airport just closed off all the doors and this [strike] is our only option," Singh said.

Airport spokesman Richard Barker said the offer to talk had always been on the table and was rejected by the drivers yesterday.

But the drivers were attempting to reduce competition. The real issue for all taxi drivers was how to attract customers away from shuttle, bus and park and ride services, Barker said.

One smaller taxi company, Goldline Taxis, had successfully tendered for a dedicated spot at the premium taxi rank, Barker said.

However, Singh said that Goldline Taxis was "trapped in that situation" and as a result had joined the strike action.

Barker said as the dispute intensified the airport would engage directly with the individual taxi companies as well as drivers.

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- Fairfax Media

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