Monday, December 18, 2006

T&GWU Negotiates Defeat For Liverpool Cabbies

In another setback for workers on Merseyside, the Transport and General Workers Union has negotiated a defeat for its taxi driving members and taxi users at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

Though the union are claiming victory, it seems cab drivers at the airport will have to pay £1 every time they want to use the taxi rank, starting in February.

Last week, the TGWU announced that more than 500 of its members would take part in a ‘drive-slow’ around Speke on Friday 15th December, in protest at £7 per day fees demanded by Peel Holdings, who own John Lennon Airport.

At the time, union leaders accused airport owners Peel Holdings of "greedy profiteering" and called the fees "arbitrary, unfair and unrealistic".

The airport had threatened to bring in private hire vehicles - effectively strikebreakers - to run the service if the taxi drivers refused to pay the fee.

JLA insisted it was one of the only airports in the country that did not charge, and needed to find ways of plugging the losses it suffers. But here they were clearly using the word 'losses' to mean additional profits they were missing out on. 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.

The drive-slow was called off at the last minute after the new plan to introduce a £1 a time card-operated barrier to the taxi rank was agreed.

Kevin Maguire, the Transport and General Workers Union's representative who liaised with the airport, said: "The details of how the barrier system is going to work and be implemented is still under negotiation. A number of meetings are planned for the new year to discuss the best way forward. We thought a permit system was unfair and restrictive as it would only have allowed a small number of hackneys. With a barrier, any hackney driver will be able to apply for a swipe card. It is likely that most drivers will pass the charge on to the customer."

So there we have it. If a driver picks up eight customers from the airport in one day, they will have to pay more than the £7 a day originally threatened. Extra costs will be passed onto the customers, who will in effect be putting their money into the pockets of Peel shareholders. Meanwhile, cabbies will have to put up with the nuisance of carrying the swipe cards.

This is yet another illustration of how the traditional trade union strategies are unable to meet the needs of workers. At best, leaders take the edge of attacks, negotiating bosses down slightly from their opening bids. At worst, they openly collude with business to earn knighthoods, seats in the House of Lords, or on corporate boards. Revolutionary workers’ organisations are needed, with the aim of abolishing the profit system and the vampiric boss class.
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