Taxi drivers rally against pay cut

A hunger strike was sparked by a new fares system.

Taxi drivers at Melbourne airport have started a hunger strike in protest at changes that will see their pay cut by up to 40%.

The Australian said on June 11 that drivers rallied against "a new fares system implemented at the airport earlier this year, which sometimes sees them wait two hours for a fare of less than $10."

Previously drivers could skip the general queue after returning to the airport after a short fare, but this queue has now been axed. As drivers are paid based on fares collected, rather than a fixed wage, this amounts to a pay cut for drivers.

Working at slower times — like very early in the morning — can mean drivers are left waiting with no income for long periods.

Drivers began a hunger strike on June 15 to put pressure on the Melbourne Airport executives to abandon the decision. ABC news reported taxi driver Nazar Yousif said: "This is starting to become very ugly and showing the feeling of big corporate behaviour towards taxi drivers."

Representatives from Melbourne Airport said the short fare queue was cut because of abuse of the system. They have met with the Victorian Taxi Association and has promised them a new system that will use license plate recognition but that won’t be implemented until September. Until then, drivers are losing 40% of their income.

One driver told the Age that he has had to defer his mortgage payment for his new home, where he lives with his wife and son due to the recent income loss.

This is the second time Victorian taxi drivers have protested over their conditions. In 2008, drivers organised a series of protests around driver safety after a series of violent racist attacks.

Drivers have vowed to continue protests until they win.

[Melbourne taxi drivers will rally at 11am at the Victorian Parliament House on July 4.]