The ongoing hunger strike which began on December 6 on rotation basis will worsen if the Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) authorities continue to deny the right to minimum fares and basic facilities to taxi drivers operating at the airport, a spokesman for the Auckland Taxi Association (AIA) has warned.
Manmohan Singh told Indian Newslink at press time that while the 200 striking drivers would continue to maintain decorum and peace, they would consider fast until death ‘very shortly,’ if their demands are not met.
“We have been waiting with patience and hope from March 11, 2013 when AIAL changed the location plan of taxis at the International Airport. We have done our best to persuade the authorities to be fair to smaller taxi companies and operators. They are not prepared to listen. We were therefore constrained to resort to hunger strike. We are not obstructing flow of vehicles including other taxis or obstructing passengers or anyone in anyway,” he said.
All those on strike are of Indian origin and almost all of them are Sikhs.
Mr Singh said that the treatment meted to him and his other colleagues reeked of discrimination and that they were prepared to take the protest to the next step.
“About 200 taxi drivers and their families have been affected by the unfair decision of AIAL. We have lost more than 50% of business,” he said.
There are five companies, including Goldline Taxis, President Taxis, VIP Cabs, Silver Cabs and Auckland Black Cabs, which belong to ATA.
According to Mr Singh, bigger companies have the advantage of being placed first in the taxi rank and allowed to charge minimum fare of $35 for trips to the domestic terminal. AIA cabs are not allowed to charge more than $20 for the same trip.
“Our demands for relocating taxi ranks at the terminal, raising the minimum fare from $20 to $35 were declined by the airport. Each taxi pays $200 a week to its owners, of which $100 goes to the International Airport,” he said.
AIAL Retail and Commercial General Manager told ‘Campbell Live’ on December 9 that the Company received about $5000 per year per taxi and that there were 700 taxis operating at the Airport.
“We have offered to meet with them and they are currently refusing to do so. I am concerned. I do not think anybody should be putting their health and welfare at risk. Everyone deserves to make a living and I am concerned people would be doing such radical things as hunger strikes. I do not think it is appropriate and I do not want passengers’ first arrival in New Zealand to be disrupted,” he said.
Mr Singh said that his Association had submitted a list of five demands on November 13, 2013, none of which has been accepted.
“We have to wait for hours to get a single fare. We work about 70 hours a week and earn about $4 per hour. We did not have proper drinking water and public convenience facilities for ten years. ATAL does not care for us,” he said.
Mr Singh said that he was grateful for public support.
Further details can be obtained from him on (021) 655519 or 027-9045643.
Picture by Bill Bradford, First Union