Taxi driver strike at Adelaide Airport over Uber ends but industrial action on the cards again next week
Ben Harvy, Kathryn Bermingham, The Advertiser 11 august 2017
THE taxi strike that caused half a day of chaos at Adelaide Airport is over for now — but cabbies have threatened to take more industrial action next week and UberX pick-ups have been suspended.
A group of disgruntled taxi drivers formed a blockade on Friday morning following Adelaide Airport’s decision to lift a ban on UberX pick-ups.
Cabbies stopped taking passengers while Uber drivers also cancelled all pick-ups, just hours after it was granted access to the airport on Thursday amid “threats” to its drivers. UberX pick-ups remain suspended.
Arriving passengers were forced to take a free bus service into the city.
The blockade ended at lunchtime when drivers struck a deal with the Transport Department for an UberX inspector to be stationed at the airport.
It is understood the inspector will monitor UberX drivers and ensure they are correctly accredited.
In addition, all Uber signage has been covered up and will be removed at a later date.
Just after 1pm taxi driver representative Surender Chahal, 44, relayed the new agreement to protesters before announcing work would restart immediately.
“They have told me there will be an inspector (at peak times),” Mr Chahal said.
“The compliance officer will be checking UberX drivers to make sure they (are) accredited.
“If there is an illegal driver working there they will be fined.
“We had another issue about the ride sharing lay-off area, there was one sign for Uber but that will be taken down. Other signs have been covered up.”
Uber spokesman Mike Scott said UberX decided to suspend pick-ups from the airport until next week following further consultation with the airport and their security team.
“We’ll continue working with the airport and trust they’ll be able to provide a safe and secure pick-up experience for riders and drivers when we resume,” Mr Scott said.
However, more disruption could be on the cards next week. Taxi driver representatives will meet with the Transport Department again next Thursday to review the agreement and make sure the three requested changes have been implemented.
If that meeting is unsuccessful drivers have promised to strike again.
Driver Bhupinder Singh Manes, 58, apologised for the disruption the strike caused.
“We are sorry to everyone but the major concern is the illegal activities of any company,” he said.
“We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused by drivers.”
Adelaide Airport executive general manager of corporate Brenton Cox said he was pleased taxis were back to operating as usual.
“It was a very constructive meeting with some of the driver representatives and we worked through a number of their concerns,” Mr Cox said.
“The upshot of it was that we have removed the references to Uber on our ride sharing signs. And they also wanted us to understand the department’s accreditation enforcement activities, they just wanted some comfort that was happening and we were able to provide them with that comfort.
“With that the blockade has stood down and is now operating as usual, so it’s a positive place to be.
“We want to remain close to those representatives over the coming days to make sure it doesn’t flare up again.”
Earlier Mr Cox said SA Police may have to use force to remove the blockade if an agreement couldn’t be reached today.
Uber is now waiting on a debrief from Adelaide Airport officials before making a call on when UberX services will restart.
UberX driver Andrew, who did not want to reveal his real name for safety concerns, said he could sense “anger” as more than 100 people swarmed his car at the airport.
“I went to the pick-up spot which is a separate section that’s got boom gates on it,” the 45-year-old told The Advertiser on Friday morning.
“I drove into the carpark and it was fairly busy there, I really didn’t know what was going on. Then I was just confronted with what seemed like a growing crowd. I’d put the estimate at about 150 people and they just converged on my car. They just surrounded my car.
“I was being yelled out by many of them. They were asking where my accreditation was and said I shouldn’t be there picking up because only taxis were allowed at the airport.
“I called the police and they wanted me to stay on the line, I didn’t know if things were going to escalate because the mob mentality. You just need one idiot to throw a rock and suddenly it’s on.
“I was shaking and afterwards I was a wreck for a couple of hours. It was quite emotional.
Earlier this morning, Uber rides remained unavailable and taxis arrived about every 10 minutes.
Passengers, unhappy with the waiting times, refused to line up in the rank, and left to find alternate transport.
One man, who arrived in Adelaide this morning and wished to remain anonymous, said it was “a joke” that he had to wait so long for a taxi.
“I can’t believe these guys are giving away money to try and protest against Uber,” he said.
“There’s plenty of people desperate to catch a taxi here now.”
Taxi services were stopped completely about 9am.
Taxi Council SA president Jim Triantafyllou said he was unsure if the method of today’s protest was appropriate.
“There are some drivers that want to not work and there are other drivers that do want to work,” he said.
“Of course the problem with that is that those who do want to work find it difficult to get in and it takes longer of course to get those cars in.
“There’s more and more vehicles not working and they’re entitled to have their say.
“We have to see how many cars we can get though here to service the public.
“Inconveniencing the public is not a good thing to do and the public do remember.
“But we hope the public is understanding, what we’re saying to the public is they should be using legal vehicles, legal drivers. That is where our fight has been now for over a year.”