A group of taxi drivers at Auckland International Airport went on a hunger strike in protest late last year over their working conditions. This dispute started when President Taxis were notified that this company would no longer have a contract with Auckland Airport. About 50 drivers are employed by President taxis which means they will have, effectively, been sacked.
The strike escalated as workers joined because of unfair working conditions like the taxi rank system which favours larger taxi companies. A list of five demands was made on November 13. The airport company have agreed to provide only basic facilities, like drinking water toilets and shades. Shades have been lacking for the past ten years. Because of the airport company’s insistence that main rank drivers have been told not to charge more than $20 for inter-terminal transfers, why are other big brand taxi companies being given permission to charge $35. Is this fair? Just rampant capitalist greed!
A newly established taxi rank has been set up, but drivers are only allowed to use the new rank if their employing company has paid the airport company a user fee. The striking drivers are concerned passengers are walking out of the International Terminal and using the new taxi rank.
Auckland Taxi Association spokesman, Manmohan 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.”
Mr Bhurpinder Singh, a fasting taxi driver, told TV1 that some drivers had been reduced to earning $4.00 an hour, making it impossible to save for families. These drivers formed an organization named Auckland Taxi Association. One group of members stops eating, and then another group of workers will take over.
Hunger-striking taxi drivers have held protest meetings at the Airport and displayed many signs supporting the hunger strike and poor working conditions. One of our ISO members visited the Airport and was pleased to notice three Mana signs at this protest.
This short strike demonstrates how capitalist employers are quick to marginalise workers from an ethnic minority, but make it justifiable. Negotiations took place and the issue was finally settled with some gains for the striking drivers. It is doubtful a favourable settlement would have taken place if direct action had not been taken. In the current political climate, it takes bravery and intestinal fortitude for a small group to take direct action. These workers are to be congratulated for making such a principled stand. A lesson for us all!