Addison Lee taxi drivers staged a 24-hour strike at London Luton Airport at 5am on Wednesday, May 1, in a dispute over unfair working conditions and pay.
Members of the United Private Hire Drivers Branch (UPHD) of the Independent Workers Union (IWGB), working for Addison Lee, said they were not earning the minimum wage.
A survey conducted in April by UPHD found that after an increase in the commission Addison Lee takes, the average hourly wage for drivers at Luton Airport working an average of 70 hours a week has fallen to £4.72.
Drivers have been protesting for several months against this increase and a hike in vehicle rental costs that were introduced last autumn, but the company has so far been unwilling to negotiate. In a recent strike ballot, over 90% of drivers working from Luton Airport voted in favour of industrial action.
The striking drivers protested outside Luton Town Hall from 10am till 12noon, calling on Luton Council to use their powers as a licensing authority to enforce their right to a minimum wage.
They then held a picket line at the boundary of the airport site at Luton Airport roundabout into the evening.
IWGB UPHD branch secretary Yaseen Aslam said: “While we are not surprised that Addison Lee’s vulture capitalist owners would try and draw every last ounce of blood from Luton’s drivers, we are shocked that a Labour council is so happy to sit by and do nothing while drivers earn below the minimum wage.
“With this strike we want to send a message not only to Addison Lee, but also the council: Do your job as a regulator and stop letting these companies drive your citizens into abject poverty.”
Addison Lee has had the exclusive right to operate the rank at Luton Airport since 2012, when the local Labour council awarded the company the contract following a £2 million bid.
Addison Lee is the official taxi rank operator at the airport.
A spokesperson said: “We engage directly with our self-employed Luton driver partners to help them earn a decent living. We have invested almost £7m in our Luton operation since 2016, which has benefited drivers directly, and average Luton driver partner pay increased by 11% between 2017 and 2018. We regularly review our driver deal to ensure it is competitive.”
Luton Addison Lee driver Imran Iqbal said: “On an average week I’m working 65 hours and taking home less than £350. So while I’ve been earning far below the minimum wage, Addison Lee’s owners made tens of millions of dollars last year.
“We have tried talking to the company, we have tried protesting and now we are left with no other option but to strike. We owe it to our families and each other to keep on fighting until Addison Lee delivers a fair deal.”
A spokesperson for Luton Council said: ”The council has fully adopted real living wage policies, which means not only that we make sure we pay our direct employees the real living wage but also that we encourage all businesses operating in Luton to do the same.
“The council is the sole shareholder of London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL), which is the owner of the airport. The organisation responsible for the running of the airport is London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL).
“The Addison Lee contract was issued by London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL) in an open and transparent tender. The council had no involvement with any operational decision making processes which were the sole responsibility of LLAOL.”