Scores of tourists missed their flights and many others were furious yesterday as Calvia taxi drivers staged an unannounced strike. Holidaymakers heading for the airport were forced to wait up to three hours for a taxi while, in desperation, others frantically searched for alternative means of transport. A furious Scotsman called the Bulletin from the airport to complain that he had been forced to stop a passing car and offer the driver £50 to take him and his family to the airport, otherwise they would have missed their flight. This is totally unacceptable and a complete disgrace, what's happening to this island? he said. He added that a number of passengers with him at the airport were planning on taking some form of legal action against Calvia taxi drivers if possible. The dispute is the age-old argument over increasing the size of the taxi fleet to meet growing demand. The council has proposed issuing 40 more taxi licences this year and 13 next year, however Calvia cabbies have slammed the idea as absurd. Yesterday morning, taxi drivers parked their cabs up in front of Calvia Town Hall, filling the car park and blocking access for staff and residents trying to get into the building. President of the Calvia Taxi Association, Bernardo de Teba, said that cabbies have unanimously rejected the local council's proposal and also refuse to accept the new holiday rota along with plans to split the municipality into zones. De Teba said yesterday that he and his members are prepared to sit down and negotiate seriously. He said that it appears the local council have failed to take into account the loss of income due to a large number of hotels being closed over the winter and that the size of the island's fleet of hire cars has also increased, therefore threatening taxi drivers' livelihoods and forty more cabbies would dig into takings even further. Tension flared as the afternoon dragged on at the Town Hall with the Local Police being deployed inside the building to prevent cabbies from entering the town hall. The council and representatives from the taxi association met for talks, but last night, negotiations continued and there was little sign of a breakthrough with cabbies set to continue their strike today. Only emergency services will operate, there will be no minimum service and no chance of flagging down a cab in Calvia. The ball is firmly in the court of Calvia Council and the Balearic government is unable to intervene and arbitrate a deal. The council applied to the government for the necessary permission to issue more taxi licences, which was granted - so now it is between the cabbies and the council to resolve. But while taxi drivers fight to protect their livelihood, the number of cabs in Calvia over the past twenty years has risen by just 25, while the population has grown from 10'000 to 40'000 residents plus the vast number of tourists. Of the 40 new taxis the council wants to introduce this year, 10 are special cabs for the disabled - but the cabbies do not want to share their earnings with 40 more drivers, despite the fact that Calvia needs more taxis to meet demand. The taxi strike has done little to help Majorca's damaged image overseas. Thousands of tourists will not be returning this year because of last year's coach strike and, judging by the reaction from tourists trying to catch their flights yesterday, Majorca can wave goodbye to scores more.
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