Wednesday, September 3, 2003

LINTHICUM, Md. (AP) — Night-shift cabdrivers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport are suing the company that manages the airport’s taxi fleet, saying they aren’t allowed to work as many hours as day-shift drivers.

About 130 night-shift drivers begin working after 4 p.m. and pick up their last passengers when the last flights arrive, typically around 1 a.m. Day-shift drivers begin work after 4 a.m. and can work as long as they like, according to the suit filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in March.

The $10 million suit filed by a dozen drivers also accuses BWI Taxi Management of wrongfully firing driver Shuiab Leigh for trying to organize the drivers.

The state Board of Public Works yesterday put off voting on whether to renew the contract after hearing from Damien Alexander, an attorney representing Silver Cab of PG, a company vying to take over the contract.

Silver Cab is protesting the Maryland Aviation Administration’s decision to recommend BWI Taxi Management for the new, five-year contract. Silver Cab bid on the contract and was ranked third.

Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, the three members of the state Board of Public Works, have agreed to consider renewing BWI Taxi’s contract at its next meeting Sept. 17.

BWI Taxi Management, which has managed the fleet since 1997, has agreed to pay the aviation administration at least $9.15 million over five years to oversee the fleet.

Drivers who own their cabs pay a $150-a-week stand fee; those who rent vehicles from the BWI Taxi Management pay $590 a week for the car and the stand fee.

Drivers earn about $100 a day.

“You’re basically a slave because you can’t ever get out from underneath the situation,” said Mr. Alexander, who also represents the drivers who filed the lawsuit.

Mr. Alexander estimates the night-shift drivers have lost about $100,000 each during the past three to four years because day-shift drivers are allowed to overlap into their time.

Saeid Esfarjani, who owns BWI Taxi Management, said the plaintiffs were a small fraction of the drivers.

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