NINETY per cent of taxi drivers working for Stansted Airport Cars the airport's sole taxi service have refused to sign a new employment agreement a move which could have seen them forced off the road this week.

A spokesman for a team of Stansted Airport Cars' drivers, David Gregory, said drivers were told by management that they would be refused keys to the company's vehicles on January 1 unless they signed an agreement which drivers estimate will reduce their take-home pay by four per cent.

However, at the eleventh hour management postponed the deadline indefinitely pending further discussions with drivers.

Mr Gregory said: "They suddenly realised they still hadn't got the cooperation of drivers, and that there is considerable unrest among most of us. I hope we will now sit down and get this sorted once and for all."

Mr Gregory said that under the proposal, drivers will be paid 37.66 per cent of fares, down from 41.66 per cent. Take-home pay currently averages out at about £200 a week, and drivers work rolling shifts which can start or end at 3am.

He said the company had made some minor alterations to a previous employment proposal, but it remained unacceptable to the majority of drivers.

He added that drivers had submitted two revised proposals prior to Christmas in an effort to avert the stalemate, but had received no response from the company.

"The company has a bit of a reputation for giving drivers a bit of a rough deal from time to time. They're very old school employers. It's like be grateful you've got a job, and if you don't like it, tough."

He added that most drivers left the taxi service within a year of starting.

Stansted Airport Cars refused to comment on the situation. The service employs about 150 drivers.