Passengers at Luton airport are being hit by multiple strikes this week as taxi drivers and security guards take industrial action in protest about low pay and changes to working conditions.
Cab operator Addison Lee, which has an exclusive contract to operate taxis from in front of the terminal building, hiked commission rates to 35 per cent last autumn and charges drivers £210 per week to hire a vehicle, leaving some being paid just £4.72 per hour. The minimum wage for over-25s is £8.21.
The 24-hour strike will impact travellers at Luton airport from 5am on Wednesday – a busy day as people jet off for a long bank holiday weekend. Passengers are advised to take alternative transport.
Security guards also walked out on Wednesday until 9pm on Sunday after the airport imposed changes to shift patterns. The strike affects baggage checks across the airport, causing delays. A second week-long strike is planned to start on the bank holiday Monday, 6 May, at 4.30am.
The guards say new shift patterns will mean they must work an extra 15 days a year.
A survey of 50 Addison Lee drivers at Luton by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) found they work an average 70-hour week.
An employment tribunal ruled in November that Addison Lee drivers should be classified as workers and therefore entitled to the national minimum wage, but they remain self-employed.
The case is one of a number that has gone against gig economy firms such as Uber.
Addison Lee drivers have been protesting for several months against increases to commission and vehicle costs but say the company has been unwilling to negotiate.
More than 90 per cent of drivers working from Luton airport voted in favour of industrial action.
IWGB branch secretary Yaseen Aslam called on Luton’s Labour-run council to take action against below-minimum wage pay.
“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.”
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 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.”
Addison Lee has had the exclusive right to operate the taxi rank at Luton airport since 2012, when the local Labour council awarded the company the contract for £2m.
A spokesperson for Addison Lee 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 per cent between 2017 and 2018. We regularly review our driver deal to ensure it is competitive.”