Liverpool cab drivers are taking part in a 'drive-slow' in Speke on Friday, in protest against £7 per day fees demanded by John Lennon Airport.
More than 500 taxis are scheduled to block Speke roads, after the drivers were told they will have to pay a new annual fee of £2,500 to pick up passengers flying to the city.
Last night union leaders accused airport owner Peel Holdings of "greedy profiteering" and called the fees "arbitrary, unfair and unrealistic". Negotiations broke down last week when drivers said they refused to accept a reduced offer of £1,920. They were then given until today to change their minds.
The airport claim the money will be used to improve facilities for drivers, and will cover a 'free' course on being an 'a Liverpool ambassador' during Capital of Culture year in 2008.
This is clearly ridiculous, for two reasons. Firstly, if you have to pay for a course, it is clearly not free! Secondly, no-one knows Liverpool better than cabbies, so they do not need any training in showing people round the city.
The airport has threatened to bring in private hire vehicles - effectively strike-breakers - to run the service if the taxi drivers refuse to pay the fee.
JLA insists it is one of the only airports in the country that does not charge, and needed to find ways of plugging the losses it suffers. But here they are clearly using the word 'losses' to mean additional profits. Last year, Peel Holdings bought Mersey Docks for £780 million, then sold a 49% stake in that company for £750 million - a huge markup. Their 2005 earnings were £100 million.
Tommy McIntyre, T&G convener for hackney cab drivers, said: "They have just plucked this figure out of thin air. They cannot give us a breakdown of what it covers. At Manchester Airport, the drivers pay a fee but it is only £260. They have threatened to bring in private-hire drivers but that means people will have to book them in advance. Also, they don't have the same wheelchair facilities. And they would only have to put up their fees to cover the charges so it would be the passengers losing out. There is no way we can recoup the money because our fares are fixed by the council. This will put a lot of people on the dole. In the run-up to 2008, this is the last thing the airport should be doing."