Luton airport cab drivers strike over pay rates
Minicab drivers at Luton airport are striking over pay rates that average just £4.72 an hour in some cases, well below the over-25 statutory minimum wage of £8.21.
About 50 minicab drivers for Addison Lee contracted to work at the UK’s fifth busiest airport are stopping work for 24 hours on Wednesday. They claim they are earning low wages despite working on average 70 hours a week.
They also want cuts to the commission taken by Addison Lee – currently 35% of fares – and the £210 weekly rental charge for Addison Lee-liveried vehicles.
Judges have repeatedly ruled that drivers for gig economy firms including Addison Lee and Uber should be treated as workers entitled to the national minimum wage and paid holiday, but appeals by the companies mean changes are yet to be introduced.
Addison Lee is owned by the Carlyle Group, a US investment firm that bought it for £300m in 2013. It has been reported that it has been exploring the sale of the company for around £800m, with Jaguar Land Rover emerging most recently as a possible buyer.
Imran Iqbal, one of the striking drivers, 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.”
The drivers, who are largely Muslim, are also demanding a place to pray while they are on long shifts.
The Independent Workers of Great Britain trade union, which represents the drivers and has backed several employment tribunal cases, carried out a survey of the working practices of 28 of the Addison Lee drivers operating daily at the airport that carries 17m passengers a year.
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% between 2017 and 2018. We regularly review our driver deal to ensure it is competitive.”
The company said its calculation of increase in pay related to total rather than hourly pay.
Two Uber drivers, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrer, won their case against the ride hailing company in 2016 to be counted as employees, but failed appeals against the verdict by Uber mean the case is now awaiting a final judgment in the supreme court. Addison Lee is also appealing against a judgment in November at the employment appeals tribunal on behalf of drivers, but the case has been stayed pending the supreme court’s Uber verdict.
A spokesperson for Luton airport said: “The wellbeing of everyone who works at the airport is really important to us … However, as this is a matter between Addison Lee and the union, we are unable to comment further. We are also working to ensure that any disruption to passengers is kept to a minimum.”