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Taxi drivers hold another protest at Melbourne Airport over the axing of short-fare queues



  • Click here t0 read at the Herald Sun
  • May 06, 2013 1:53PM
  • TAXI drivers say they’ll continue protesting at Melbourne Airport if a crisis meeting tomorrow morning fails to resolve their concerns over the end of short-fare queues.

    A small delegation of drivers will meet with Melbourne Airport officials and the Victorian Taxi Association at 8.30am tomorrow to resolve the dispute following the airport’s decision to cut short-fare queues after finding some drivers were rorting the system.

    About 65 cabbies blocked a taxi rank at the departures terminal from 8am to 11am, after about 300 took part in a heated rally on Friday.

    VTA chief executive David Samuel said the taxi rank was flowing normally and picking up passengers despite the protest.

    Melbourne Airport spokeswoman Anna Gillett said there were no delays at the airport.
    Ms Gillett said the airport would seek assurances that any changes negotiated in tomorrow’s meeting would be accepted by drivers.

    Many drivers abandoned today’s protest after major cab company 13CABS  sent a text message urging them to end the rally.

    "To all drivers – we urge you not to get involved in the disruptive action at Melbourne Airport. Discussions will be held with Melbourne Airport early this week to resolve the situation. Action as reported in the media WILL NOT assist a positive outcome being reached," the message said.

    The Australian Federal Police and airport security monitored the mostly peaceful protest.

    Taxi driver of six years Vinnie Verma told the Herald Sun there would be "more hassle for customers" if the airport didn’t  reinstate its short-fare queue system, which it scrapped last Wednesday.

    "There will be more problems for our customers out of all this. They just want to get from point A to point B; it’s not their fault but at the end of the day, this is going to have a huge impact on them," Mr Verma said.

    "We’ll start refusing fares and there will be more fighting with customers. You have to understand, we need to get our money from somewhere."

    Mr Verma said drivers were willing to peacefully seek a resolution with Melbourne Airport, but claimed airport officials were not interested in a fair solution for both parties.

    Mr Verma explained drivers were mostly disgruntled that a long-term system of drivers slipping back into the front of the queue after a short 20-30km trip had been wiped out, forcing some drivers to wait for a further two hours before picking up another passenger.

    "It means sometimes in a 12-hour shift, after paying my owner and paying the taxes, I’m taking home $80 for that day. I may as well work at McDonald’s," he said.

    He said the airport claimed more than 900 short fares daily had cost the system $1800 – a sum taxi drivers could voluntarily eliminate to keep the system in place  by paying a $2 charge when returning from a short fare to ensure they would again head the queue.

    Spokesperson Nazar Yousif admitted some rogue drivers had abused the previous model.
    He said the lack of a union body allowed airport management to make changes without holding discussions with drivers.
    Mr Yousif said protests would continue if the taxi drivers’ demands were not met.

    Drivers are also demanding to have their amenities at the airport improved.
    Driver Raj Singh, 23, said the revised short-fare model was unfair.
    He said he earned $3.80 and spent more than three hours queued in the taxi holding on Saturday.

    "Because we don’t have a union to represent us they (Melbourne Airport) just implement rules without getting back to the driver," Mr Yousif said.

    "We are planning today to speak with airport management and trying to solve firstly the short-fare problem. Melbourne Airport doesn’t care about what we say. That’s why we are here the second time."

    Ms Gillett said scrapping the short-fare queues happened after the airport trialled several options, including tokens, but found some drivers were rorting the system and putting passengers in danger.

    "Some were driving at breakneck speed," she said yesterday.
    "We are absolutely happy to discuss any alternatives but we need the commitment of all drivers and the industry."

    Taxi drivers protest

    A taxi driver is held by a police officer during the protest at Melbourne Airport on Friday. Source: Getty Images


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