Dozens of taxi drivers are gathering at Auckland Airport today to protest over safety concerns about picking up passengers potentially carrying Covid-19.
The drivers, from Alert Taxi and other firms, say they are suffering mentally and financially from the risks of coronavirus and worsening lack of work.
One driver told the Herald it is a health and safety issue, but claims management at Alert Taxis are not taking their issues seriously and are still requiring drivers to pay a weekly levy of $194.50 to collect passengers from the airport.
"We never know who is carrying what. It is very unsafe for us to work and our families, some of whom have young children and elderly parents. They are not listening to us," he said.
Another driver said he had collected two passengers from an international flight on Wednesday, which he believed could have had four passengers who tested positive for Covid-19.
He said he did not have any symptoms for the virus and had been told by a nurse at his medical practice on the North Shore not to worry. He stopped working after taking the two passengers to the Hilton Hotel in central Auckland.
In a letter to the management at Alert Taxis, signed by about 80 drivers, they accuse their bosses of being "rude and unsupportive in this hard time".
"All the drivers are under stress as we were not getting any response from the company," the letter said.
The drivers claim that following a meeting with management on Monday, management refused to support their needs and drivers had to continue paying the levy.
The Herald is seeking comment from the management of Alert Taxis.
Bob Wilkinson, chief executive of Blue Bubble Alliance Ltd, said he was unaware of any of the 700 taxi drivers in Auckland taking part in the protest.
He said the company had issued commonsense rules for taxi drivers to follow based on advice from the Ministry of Health, saying it is not possible to provide full protection to drivers operating in a small space.
Drivers are being advised not to pick up passengers showing symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, to carry hand cleaner and anti-septic wipes and wipe down surfaces like door handles and seats at the end of each trip.
The company, the largest in New Zealand with about 2000 taxis, had three drivers in isolation who had come into close contact with known Covid-19 cases. None of the three drivers are in Auckland, Wilkinson said.