Mediation for taxi dispute

Thu, Aug 23, 2012, 01:00

Taxi drivers and the Dublin Airport Authority have agreed to enter mediated talks in an effort to end a strike that has disrupted passengers for a second day.

 

The strike that began yesterday has forced passengers arriving at the airport to rely on public transport and private cars for their onward journeys. August is one of the busiest months at the airport.

Sources said both sides had agreed to enter talks starting at 5pm this evening. The row involves 55 taxi spaces in a holding area of the airport that have been taken back by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

A sign at the taxi rank today warned passengers of the strike and directed them to the nearby bus terminals.

The queues began to grow at the bus stops this morning and more people appeared at the taxi rank seeking assistance from the dispatcher. The man on duty patiently examined maps and hotel directions and pointed tourists and other travellers towards the buses. He declined to speak to reporters, however.

Annika Palu and a colleague from Estonia had just arrived for a three-day workshop in Dublin. They looked bemused to be turned away from the taxi rank but said they would take a bus to the city centre.

Helen Charlton and boyfriend Rokas Liaminas had just arrived from Stansted on their first visit to Dublin. They stood at the empty taxi rank where they had hoped to pick up a taxi to their hotel in Finglas.

Ms Charlton shrugged and said she didn't mind as she believed there was a bus serving the route.

Two Dublin Bus Airlink buses were boarding passengers but neither was full. Nearby, a blue Aircoach bus was also boarding. The man at the Aircoach customer service desk said business had been busier today in "peaks and troughs" depending on flight arrivals.

The Airlink and Aircoach staff were co-operating and referring passengers to each other's service, depending on the routes people needed to take, he said.

Some passengers were confused when they arrived to find the taxis were on strike, but he said queues were orderly as people waited for information.

On a typical day, Aircoach sees about 3,000-4,000 passengers pass through the airport. It expected business to double today.

A DAA spokesman urged the drivers to resume services. He insisted the spaces, which had been used as an “overflow” facility for the main holding area, had only ever been available to the drivers on a temporary basis. He said the drivers had been aware of this since 2010.

He said there was no issue with parking capacity for taxi drivers at the airport.

The spokesman said the airport authority had on Wednesday offered to restore 30 of the parking spaces on an interim basis. The taxi drivers’ representatives had appeared to accept this “credible and reasonable” offer, but the drivers had later rejected it.

There were no delays to flights today and no one had missed flights as a result of the dispute, but it was "hugely regrettable" that the drivers had caused such inconvenience to the travelling public, the DAA spokesman added. The authority had extra staff on duty directing passengers to alternative transport.

Jerry Brennan of the National Irish Taxi Association said, however, the 30 spaces were insufficient to deal with the overflow. He said the airport authority had indicated it was going to use the space for staff parking, but it had not provided any alternative for the taxi drivers. They had offered to move to another suitable location, he said.

Airport sources confirmed staff parking was among the possible uses being considered for the spaces taken from the taxi drivers.

Mr Brennan confirmed the drivers wanted to operate a system whereby they were called individually from the holding area rather than fill the ranks outside the two terminal buildings.

The reason for this was that drivers had found they were waiting for lengthy periods outside Terminal 2 when there were no flights or when it was not busy. This meant drivers who had been in the holding queue behind them were picking up fares before them at Terminal 1.

About 1,500 taxi drivers have permits to work from the airport. There are about 390 parking slots available after the 55 were taken away earlier this week, according to the airport authority. The spokesman said the same number of spaces was available as had been available in 2010, despite the fact there were about 300 fewer permit holders now.

Taxi drivers took part in a number of slow-drive protests around the airport today, beeping car horns.

Dublin Chamber of Commerce chief executive Gina Quin said the disruption to taxi services at the airport was "regrettable" and must be resolved immediately.

It had come on one of the busiest weekends of the year in Dublin with the commencement of the tall ships festival and a music festival in Marlay Park.

"The tourism industry has endured a difficult number of years and situations like this are not ideal when we are trying to portray the city in a positive light to overseas visitors," Ms Quin said.

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