IS IT THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR THE GIG ECONOMY?

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 26/09/17 –

London private hire drivers have won this week two major battles against two of the biggest minicab operators in a campaign to end the so called gig economy. After Uber had lost their operation licence in London, yesterday (25) was Addison Lees turn to lose a court case at a London Employment Tribunal which ruled that Addison Lee wrongly classed their drivers as self-employed. It has been a major blow for the operator and a incredible victory for drivers who have been fighting for years for better working conditions and better payment practices.

The TFL decision to refuse Ubers licence is not in any shape or form a decision against the drivers, quit the opposite. Uber drivers should celebrate this decision as it will force Uber to improve their working conditions, payment rates and terms of contract. The company will have to present Transport For London (TFL), a very good plan to tackle their bad practices in order to have their licence back, which can only means, better service for drivers and passengers. Uber don’t have to give much away in order to comply with the same rules as everyone else. Lose a market as big as London however, will be a huge blow for the business which can also lead for similar actions in other cities around the world. Personally, I don’t want Uber to go. Its undeniable that Uber offers an important service for the public, but the company must stick to the Law of the land, improve its practices and pay their drivers a decent share of the profit. Uber isn’t unique!  In the United States, there are plenty of similar operators such as Lyft.com that would be more than happy to replace Uber in London in case they fail to get their licence back. Nevertheless, I strongly doubt Uber will let London slip away.

It’s never been a more important time for private hire drivers to register to workers unions such as GMB and UPHD and help to keep the pressure on companies and regulators.

Addison Lee drivers have also a lot to celebrate this week. They made it clear they will not back off and let themselves be exploited and mistreated by greedy employers. Addison Lee drivers have fought a long way since the protests in Berkeley Square in central London, and this week the judges have recognised that Addison Lee drivers are workers and not self-employers. It is a major step forward to stop the gig economy from eroding  the bases of our society. There has been too much suffering and discontent among drivers, and for too long they have been totally ignored by operators. The tides are shifting now and professional drivers must not miss this opportunity to make lasting changes towards a safer and fairer industry.

But, none of these victories would be possible without the incredible support from our unions. Without them, it would be almost impossible for the drivers alone to fight multimillion pounds corporations in court. These corporations would most certainly continued to have their ways. But the unions were there to protect and fight for workers rights. We should be very proud and thankful for their support!

Workers must understand the importance of unions in making the justice system and the government to comply with their social responsibilities.

It is also important to understand that we cannot have a Margaret Thatcher style deregulated market, because as we know, it puts public and workers in danger of being exploited by ruthless multinational corporations. But we also cannot allow a Hugo Chaves over-regulated market, because it clearly don’t give business a fair field to operate. We must seek to find a middle ground where business are free to flourish, but the public and workers rights can at the same time, be secure and protected from abuse. London is indeed, open for business! But the message is clear, British workers will not tolerate businesses operating outside the Law. London has taken a leading position to show the world that a gig economy has no place in a fair society. Addison Lee, Uber and other companies must understand the message and accept their social responsibilities. It might not be the end of the gig economy, but it is certainly a step in that direction. London drivers will not back off!

 

 

PRIVATE HIRE DRIVERS: ARE YOU FIGHTERS OR MOANERS?

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 11/01/17 –

That the Private Hire Driver industry is under attack we all know it. We also know that the continuation of such unfair, and in some cases, illegal rules and regulation policies, imposed upon drivers by some minicab operators, are unsustainable and utterly unacceptable. The question is quite simple, are we going to accept the status of a 21st century slave, or are we going to fight back? There aren’t many options I’m afraid! You either unite and put a stop to the exploitation (which you and your families are victims of), or you remain working more and more hours for ever less money (if that’s possible at all), until you drop dead or become penniless. The decision must be yours! Nothing will happen if we spend the days around Heathrow or gatwick airport complaining about how bad things are unless we are actually doing something about it. There is money out there guys! There are plenty of passengers too. What’s different now is the greedy and the aggressiveness of minicab firms policies under the wings of private equity firms management.

The arrival of UBER is undoubtedly a factor in changing the industry. But, the single biggest factor has been the arrival of Private Equity Firms and their insatiable hunger for “profit at all costs”. At our costs! The introduction of higher commission charges, rental and insurance prices, as well as changes in the point system, which used to allow hard working drivers to have weekly free car rental and insurance, was the actions of Private Equity Firms policies. I am sure we could compete and survive with UBER, just like British Airways compete and survive with Ryanair, M&S and ASDA, Debenhams and Primark. But, private equity firms unfair charges are killing us!

Professional drivers in the UK have been victims of a very aggressive and careless corporations which regards only about how much money they can make on them. They don’t care if your family is living on the streets, as long as their shareholders are happy, drivers wellbeing doesn’t matter. Their goal is to maximise their profits, even if that means bite in on drivers earnings! The only thing they care about us, is whether we can stay available for work as long as possible. Otherwise, drivers are just an inconvenience for them.

So, the same way we don’t expect to see rain in the desert, or kindness in the evil, we shouldn’t expect to see fairness and ethics in the way Private Equity Firms operates. From their point of view, drivers are just an inconvenience they have to deal with. Drivers complain about low pay, long hours of work, bad jobs, unfair charges and holidays, as if all these things were beyond reasonable workers rights. They don’t want to know our problems! They want us to shut up and work 24/7 for as minimum as possible. That’s why they are dreaming about driverless cars.

Private Equity Firms do what they are designed to do, and they are backed up by powerful legal teams that find the way around the Law. So, let’s not expect they will behave like ethical and moral institutions because they are far from that. They were design to be nasty beasts, and they will continue to be heavily driven by numbers and results. There is no human relations in the way they operate! They will continue to exploit us as much as they can, so they can get their shareholders stuffed with money to earn their fat bonuses at our expenses. They will not share the cake! We do the hard work just to be left with peanuts. That must stop! But, I remind you one thing; this situation can only go on as long as we allow it to. Without drivers, there are no minicab companies! That’s why we MUST UNITE!

Why do we allow these people to continue to exploit us without any resistance? Well, I suspect they know we will work longer if we need more money. The more we work, less likely we are to stop and protest. So, they pay us less, and we have to work more. The closer we are to become penniless, more concerned we will become about losing our jobs. Even when our jobs has become more like an occupation than a proper job, we will be afraid of losing it, because unemployment is a terrifying nightmare no one wants to go through. So, they know it, and they play the fear factor. It works! It will continue to work until drivers stop complaining, get united, and take action! It is possible to fight them back, and it is possible to win our industry back. But, are we willing to stand up side by side and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH in one single voice? Drivers, we must do it! The way these firms are operating is beyond greedy. It is criminous! We have the responsibility to stop them, for our own sake!

Social Media has been a very good tool to allow drivers to get together. But, that’s not enough. Drivers must have the help of professionals and big institutions such as GMB  and UPHD unions to fight against the evil of exploitation. If you are still not a member of a union, I urge you to go to www.gmb.org.uk  or  www.uphd.org and get yourself registered. Be protected! Unions can take big corporations head on and fight for workers rights. There are over 110 thousand professional drivers in Greater London today, and I wish all of them were a GMB or  UPHD union member. There is no way we can fight big firms without the power and the expertise of unions. We need them!

Drivers, we are the only source of revenue for minicab firms. Without us, there are no minicab companies! They must understand that and treat us the same way they treat their shareholders. Without hard working drivers, there will be no returns to shareholders’ investments. If 2015 was a bad year for professional drivers, 2016 was even worse. Let’s make 2017 the year we stop the abuse. The year we will take back control of our industry! Happy 2017!

EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS: FIRMS ARE EXPLOITING SELF-EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS. THIS MUST STOP!

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 14/08/16 –

The Court of Justice is about to expose what has been claimed to be a scandalous employment rights’ exploitation. Delivery and minicab firms throughout the UK have been accused of denying their drivers of basic working rights such as minimum wage, sick pay and holidays, by imposing self-employment contracts upon them. This would stop these companies from complying with would otherwise, be their obligations.

It became normal practice throughout this industry. Delivery and minicab drivers have been working as self-employed sub-contractors when in most cases, the atributes of their jobs are similar or equal to those stated as workers and employees. Nevertheless, Hundreds of thousands of drivers are working with little or no employment rights at all. A spokesman from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), told The Guardian newspaper last week that, “An individual’s employment status is determined by the reality of the working relationship and not the type of contract they have signed”. If that is the case, almost all minicab and delivery drivers working in the UK on the bases of a self-employment contract, should have their employment status upgraded to worker or employee. “Individuals cannot opt out of the rights they are owed, nor can an employer decide not to afford individuals those rights. Employers cannot simply opt out of the National Living Wage (NLW) by defining their staff as self-employed.” (The Guardian)

How it works

If you are looking to become a delivery/minicab driver, you will be asked with few exceptions, to sign a contract with one of many operators in the country. You will need to have a full UK driving license and a PCO license (if you want to carry passengers). You will then, be given a van, a motorbike or a car, depending on the type of the job you are signing up for. It works on a rental contract. A XDA or PDA will also be provided so you can receive details of jobs you are going to do. You will also be given uniform, ID badge and a call sign. Once you are ready to go, you will receive jobs, but only from the company you have signed up for. You are not allowed to work for anybody else. Do it privately or pick up a passenger without pre-booking and you will be breaking the Law. As a private hire driver, you are only allowed to pickup passengers with pre-bookings. Your company (not you), will decide which driver will get a particular job as well as, how much you will be paid for it. Unless you are a car owner, you will be using a company car, usually with the company logo on it, an uniform and equipment. They will have total control over how many jobs and how much they will pay you every day. Your responsibility is to be available for work as long as possible. You are required to work at least 12 hours a day. The courier company charge a commission fee on each job you do which can be up to 60%, plus car rental and insurance. Any damage to the car or equipment and you will be charged for it. You also have to pay for any traffic related incidents like penalty charges, punctured tyres, broken windscreen, windows and fuel. All time lost on repairs, services and recovery, are at your cost. You are not entitle to receive sick pay, overtime, or holiday.

You have to log in to the company’s system at the start of your shift and wait for the first job to come in. Once you have a job, you must do it, although, some companies allow up to 25 seconds on ASAP jobs for the driver to accept or refuse it. However, refusing a job can put you in serious trouble with the company, and if you keep refusing jobs you will be made inactive. So for instance, if you live in Richmond and you are in central London waiting for a job towards home after your 12 hour shift and you are given a job going to Stansted, you are expected to do it, even if you have to drive 30 miles empty back home.

In most cases, the first job is quickly allocated, but during half-terms and school holidays it can take up to an hour. During summer, specially during July and August, some drivers might work 12 hours shift and do as little as 3 or 4 jobs. The costs on insurance and rent remains the same throughout the year. January is also a very quite month. During these periods, a van and minicab driver, working 12 hours a day, six days a week might get up to £450 pounds before costs. Costs are usually: Rent: £100/170 pounds; Insurance: £55/70 pounds; fuel: £100 pounds and Tax. That is per week, considering you have no traffic related incidents. It is not unusual to see drivers working on a loss during down periods. Even during pick times it is getting harder and harder for drivers to breakeven. This is where companies benefit from self-employment contracts, as they have no obligations such as sick pay, holiday and minimum wage towards their drivers. Drivers on the other hand, have no rights and have to bare all the costs. Companies can also hire as many drivers as they please as they have no added costs in doing so. It increases availability and consequently  increases their revenue. However, for the drivers it means more competition, less jobs and consequently less revenue. The car rent paid by the drivers usually pays all the costs the company would have with the car, and that’s including the leasing contracts. At the end of the leasing contract the company will have a car which can be sold for a clean profit. The drivers that actually paid the lease by paying car rental every week, gets nothing in return.

After the introduction of UBER in 2013, and the arrival of private equity firms to control many of the big companies, job prices are going down to attract more costumers. They are also charging more from drivers to work for them. Lowering the prices is a good thing to attract more costumers, but in some cases drivers are paying the full cost of these changes while companies will not lose any revenue by lowering prices. Some companies for instance, are giving up to 30% discount to passengers during off pick, but this 30% discount is entirely paid by the driver. Commission are also up. Cash jobs used to be commission free. Now there is a 20% commission on it. In many cases the driver has a 50% cut on his payment at the start of a job, and that’s even before they pay for car rent, insurance and fuel. In these cases, drivers will be left with almost nothing at the end of the job. There are many cases where after 70 to 80 hour worth of driving in a week, your average payment can be as little as £4 pounds per hour, much lower than the legal minimum wage. Anyone earning £4 pounds a hour in London will be fighting to survive. So for example: on a cash job from SW1 London to Heathrow, the  driver used to be paid an average of £70 pounds. Today, the driver has to pay 20% commission to the company he/she works for, plus 30% discount given by the company and charged from the driver. That means, the driver will now be paid £35 pounds before car rent, insurance, Fuel and tax, if there is no traffic related incidents. At the end of the job you will be left with as little as £10 pounds. But, this is not all. Once you drop off a passenger at the airport, you can either drive back to central London empty, or wait for a job at the airport which can take at least 2 hours as you are placed in a queue system. Either way, the driver will lose money by driving back to town empty, or waste at least 2 hours waiting for another job at the airport. It became a no win situation made worse by a self-employment contract that gives little or no rights to drivers and no obligations from the company you work for.

What we have noticed as result of these new corporate strategies, is that companies are increasing their revenue while drivers (the only source of revenue for most of courier companies) are experiencing a sharp drop of up to 50% on their earnings. In the other hand, to keep their heads above the water, drivers have been forced to work longer hours, which in return, increases availability and improve even more the company’s results. There are many reports of drivers working over 100 hours a week  just to make ends meet. It is utterly unfair and extremely dangerous for everybody including costumers.

Big courier companies have been able to get away with it for years, but now it seems drivers had enough. There are countless court cases against courier and minicab companies going through the courts at the moment. If the Courts decide these drivers should be treated as workers or employees, companies throughout the country will have to pay compensation as well as upgrade their drivers status from self-employed to workers status. That means they will have to pay the same rights as any worker should have in the first place. It will change the industry as a whole and stop companies from abuse the system for their own benefit. The future of thousands of families throughout the UK are depending on how the Courts will rule these cases. If justice is to be above money, drivers must have some money back and the culture of abuse should stop immediately. Justice must be done for professional drivers.

 

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/aug/14/deliveroo-told-it-must-pay-workers-minimum-wage?CMP=twt_gu

 

WE MUST UNITE AGAINST EXPLOITATION

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 30/06/16 –

 

Individualism Is Our Downfall: We Must Unite Against Exploitation

I have to recognise the incredible talent of those in power to be so successful in the campaign to convince the workers that those people fighting for workers rights are not good for the workers.

It makes me angry to see workers being “economically raped” and deprived from their ability to live a decent life and somehow, accept these conditions almost without protest. Workers in general, don’t understand that no matter the company we work for, we are all workers and our standard of living is under attack by greedy corporations backed by our own governments. The bases of society, where most of us work and live, has been starved of money forcing workers to fight for ever reduced earnings and rights. It looks like the perfect financial model from the point of view of the current diabolic unregulated financial system we are trapped in. The same people who starve workers from a decent and fair salary, are the ones who will keep you on a tight leash by borrowing you money you so desperately need and they know you will struggle to pay, so they can always keep you under control. This way they will also take everything else you may have acquired before with your hard work including your car, your furniture, and even your house.

Your level of agreement with the idea described above depends on how far down the line you are now. You might be reading this article thinking: “What a load of nonsense!” If that’s your case, you are either a billionaire or it is just a matter of time for you to agree with me further along the line, unfortunately. It’s like the captain of Titanic thinking how his ship is unsinkable just to tragically realise later on, how sinkable his ship actually was. I say that because I have been in that position before. I was a believer that hard work would always be compensated. I was naive just like most of us are. I had know idea how aggressive and inhuman some of these multinacional corporations really are. Since we ware born it seems we are conditioned to see Banks and Multinacional Corporations as good things, but they are at least partly responsible for keeping half of the world in poverty by scooping the money from the peripheries of society and keeping it concentrated in one place.

However, most of the people on the top such as bankers and high corporate executives, are not all evil people. I drive some of them to and from work as well as to and from airports everyday. They are mostly, genuinely good people with family and children, and like anybody else, they want the best for their families. The problem starts when they get together to make money at all costs with no regards to other people in society including the person who drive them to and from work everyday. This is where stakeholders become dehumanised and easy target. This is where workers in the 21st century become modern slaves and big corporations become the slave masters.

It all seems to be driven by a simple equation involving cost cut + increasing profit = fat bonuses. Nothing apparently wrong with that until workers earnings become a fair game for these vultures. Then, it become immoral and a crime against the people. Some will laugh: Crime against people? Yes! Of course, there is no such thing as a crime against people in the law, but that tells us another story. The reason why there is a lack of legislation to protect workers’ rights is that the same people who deprive the workers from a decent salary, are the same people who finance political parties as well as their electoral campaigns. They are the same people who somehow, are able to convince you over and over again to vote for their candidates and not for the candidates that would work and represent you in government. They make candidates who would genuinely fight for the workers rights to look bad. Jeremy Corbyn might be the biggest example of such culture. He is considered unelectable because of his visions towards workers and the rights of general men and women of this country, but he is just one example. There are many others.

Today, workers are losing their employment rights all over the world, and this phenomenon is not restricted to developing countries anymore. Workers in rich countries such as Britain, are also losing their ability to earn a living as a result of a combination of an unregulated market, which allows big corporations to freely exploit workers on self-employment and zero hour contracts with little or no employment rights at all, and the rising on the costs of living. It is not rocket science, if your cost of living is rising and your earnings are decreasing, you are heading for a crash! We mustn’t be negligent as the captain of Titanic was. We must steer the ship away from the iceberg before it’s too late, and the best way to do it is by getting united and work smartly. Don’t criticise tube drivers, Junior doctors and other workers when they decide to strike. We must support them because tomorrow might be our turn to be supported by society. Don’t criticise black-cab drivers for their protest. They need to be supported because we are on the same boat. The same works for Uber drivers. They have been exploited by big corporations just like we are. Fight each other will do no good for us. We must unite and support each other to fight for workers rights and better conditions at work.

We have been victims of an economic system I call “vacuum cleaner”. It means, Hedge funds and big corporations are sucking up the money from the economy and piling it up in tax-heavens across the world for the benefit of a shrinking group of people while the rest of the planet is forced to live on debt. Hedge-funds buy what used to be good companies, with thousands of happy workers, just to strip them from every possible penny including workers earnings, so they can pay back to shareholders as dividends before sell them off and move to the next company, and the next and so on. When they go they leave behind a trail of misery and struggling workers with little or no employment rights at all. They have no regards to the future of these companies or the future of the stakeholders. They have no sense of social responsibility or care for their practices. It is all about money, with no regards for human relations. In addition, there is no legislation to stop these people and these companies from carrying on with these dirty practices. It is all legal! Self-employed and zero hour contracts are growing fast, and if the government or the workers do nothing about it, this will dominate the work place in the future with workers rights being a thing of the past.

Although, companies such as Addison Lee and Uber among others have been taken to court by their workers, it’s all about the way the judges interpret the Law which doesn’t always represents the needs of workers. It’s also down to how much money one can pay for Lawyers. Justice is supposed to be a human right where everyone should have access regardless of their financial conditions, but it seems that justice has become a commodity at an auction where whoever pay more will get it. In that case, the big corporations are the ones who got more money and therefore, they are the ones who wins most of the times. Nevertheless, the workers have a chance, and it’s called UNION. The unions are the biggest tool workers can have to defend themselves against abuse. Even for those on self-employment contracts can be supported and defended by unions. In Britain, the GMB has done an incredible job for professional self-employed drivers, and they have been a vital force for good in that field. Unions such as GMB are in many cases, the only defence for workers against exploitation. Workers must understand that the only way we can promote positive changes to improve our livelihoods is by understanding the power we have when we are united, specially when we are supported by unions such as GMB.

Workers must never accept their situation as unchangeable. No matter the excuses big corporations and governments give to justify their exploitation policies, workers should never stop fighting for their rights. Actions must be taken against exploitation and we should never accept unfair conditions imposed on us by people who don’t care about our lives. Individualism and egoism are two important tools used by governments and big corporations to keep people under control. Remember Margaret Thatcher when she said: “there is no such thing as society”. Indeed, it’s not in their interests to see the people united. They know they cannot exploited people when they are united. That is the same reason Addison Lee don’t want to see their drivers united. That is the reason companies don’t like to see their workers registered with unions. We are strong when we are united and very weak when we are just individuals. Understanding the world we are living in is vital on the fight against exploitation. If we keep thinking only about ourselves instead of thinking about those around us, we will continue to be victims of our own ignorance. I lost my job for a cause I believe in. Two other friends lost their jobs too. Like most of us, we have families, we have children, but we did what we think is the right think. We haven’t done anything wrong. We were exercising our legal rights to protest against unfair working conditions and unfair payment policies imposed on us. I don’t regret doing what I believe is the right think and I think all of us should do the same. This is the only way we can fight back and stop abusive working policies and neglecting governments. Workers have only each other to fight against exploitation, and when we are united and organised in working unions, we are bigger than our problems. Individualism is our downfall. We must support each other as part of a community, as part of our society. We must care about each other. We must help each other to resolve our common issues and this way we will be able to build a better society for us and for future generations.

 

DAVID VERSUS GOLIATH IN A BATTLE FOR THE FUTURE OF ADDISON LEE

A master piece by: Mark Morahan

London, 26/05/16 –
David versus Goliath in a battle for the future of Addison Lee.

This is no Fairy Tale!
The ‘Goliath’ a $178 billion organisation called Carlyle Group versus ‘David’ a bunch of London minicab drivers from Addison Lee earning £6 per hour and now forced to work 60 to 80 hours per week to make ends meet. No contest you would think but read on and you may be surprised.
Our story starts back in 2013 when Goliath purchased Addison Lee from the wilily old founder John Griffin for £300 million. Goliath congratulated himself that he had taken Irishman Griffin ‘to the cleaners’ by getting the company for a knock down price. Goliath licked his lips as he thought of all that profit he would make by selling the company for $800 million. Griffin, to his credit, bore Goliath no ill will for being persuaded to sell his company so cheaply. He accepted he was only a simple cab driver and no match for expensively suited high finance Goliath executives.
What is now certain that Goliath, who was much too big to travel in normal cars and needed a chauffeured Mercedes, had never heard of ‘Uber’. The rest of the private equity community laughed with glee as Goliath discovered that this was not the best time to be selling a cab company. Goliath spat with fury as he was forced to cancel the sale.
The good people at Addison Lee kept on working hard, providing a great service and grew the business by 7%. That was not good enough for the very hungry Goliath who wanted money, big money, otherwise his investors would get annoyed. Goliath pushed open the doors of Addison Lee and announced that he would now be running things. We all know that Goliath did not become the biggest in the land by being stupid, he could smell where the money was but how could he get his hands on it? Thinking for a while he came up with a simple but brilliant plan ‘let’s increase the charges to the drivers’. Up went the weekly car rental and commission taken on every job. This stroke of genius was a fabulous success and £25 million that would have been paid to the 4,000 drivers, was to be put too much better use, shareholder dividends. Goliath sat back smugly, knowing that his investors would be yet again be kneeling in front of him paying homage to his brilliance.
Understandably the drivers were a little upset at having to work longer and longer hours to try to cover the bare essentials of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. They pleaded ‘we have given loyal service, we love this company and now were earning less than the minimum wage, that is not right’. Goliath laughed and said ‘you’re all on self-employed contracts so you have no rights. If you don’t like it leave’.
Many drivers, with tears in their eyes, did leave the place they loved. Others scared by the size of Goliath hid away but one driver called David dared to challenge the Goliath by saying ‘this is our company, we helped build it and are proud to work here, you have no right to be destroying it.” Summoning all his courage, David then shouted ‘IT IS YOU WHO SHOULD LEAVE’ Now Goliath got very annoyed grabbed David, pulled his car keys away so he could not escape in his Galaxy and threw him violently into the dungeon called unemployment. ‘That what’s happens to anybody who challenges me’ roared Goliath with such ferocity that all the other drivers ran for cover in case they too were locked in the damp dark dungeon and would not be able to feed their families.

But then a strange thing happened, the little drivers looked at each other and knew they had to rescue David. They were very frightened but as they looked around their courage grew for they knew they had right on their side. More and more came out from hiding and were soon joined by staff from the offices who cheered the little drivers on. Soon Goliath was surrounded in the boardroom of Addison Lee. The drivers and staff said as one ‘We have come to take our company back’. Goliath roared with laughter and then thundered ‘Get back to work, it is I which owns this company’. He was so loud that he could be heard all the way to the garage in Stanhope Street where the unused Galaxies and Prius crashed into each as the roar of anger reverberated around its concrete walls.
But still the drivers did not move and as Goliath caught one to throw them into the dungeon the other drivers and staff wrestled him back. Soon Goliath started to tire and he knew that he could not win. The drivers and staff cheered as they threw Goliath out the front door banished to Berkley Square where his angry investors lay in wait for him.
The good people at Addison Lee were happy to go to work and cheered as they were once again voted the best minicab company in the country.
The drivers and staff of Addison Lee are shouting loud and clear, ‘Carlyle, we want our company back’. What’s not a fairy tale is that Carlyle cannot win this battle. Its management style is arrogant and straight from the 19th century. Sacking people for demonstrating because they have had their income forcibly reduced, is not acceptable in this country.
The assets of Addison Lee are not the cars, vans, offices or computers, it is the people. Without them the company is valueless. It is the professionalism of drivers and staff which keeps our accounts happy. Who owns the shares has no bearing when contracts are renewed.
The reality is that Carlyle wish to sell Addison Lee. That will only happen if the staff and drivers cooperate. No purchaser will ever buy Addison Lee in the condition it is now.
A formal notice will soon be served on Carlyle which will legally oblige them to inform any potential purchasers that the drivers and staff will not tolerate being owned by any organisation which does not put the interests of all stakeholders (staff, drivers and shareholders) at the forefront of its strategy.
Without co-operation Carlyle would have to give the company away for virtually nothing. For assisting the sale of Addison Lee the staff and drivers will be rewarded with 25% of the shareholding which will be is to be divided equally between all staff and drivers.
If Carlyle do not accept those conditions, the staff and drivers of Addison Lee will do everything in its power to confront Carlyle to counter its dictatorial attitude and total disregard for peoples basic human rights.
They will not win.

ADDISON LEE AND ME

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 27/04/16 –

I have never, in my entire life, been through a situation like the one I am going through now. Worries me what the future will bring. I always thought that hard work would always be compensated and that was my policy. In fact, this is how it used to be for Addison lee drivers. You could make up to £1200 pounds working 60 hours a week. A decent salary for sure. But I was wrong about hard working. If the company you work for has been sold to a hedge fund or a big corporation, chances are that the human factor ceased from existing. They don’t even think about spending any money on Corporate Social Responsibility. The only responsibility of companies such as Carlyle Group is to make money at all costs for whoever is their shareholders. Numbers are taking over humans and humans will be destroyed by numbers! Wherever I look to people’s face on the streets of London I see tension and preoccupation. What’s wrong with our society? For how long this social structure will be able to hold before it completely collapse on the top of the heads of those responsible for all this misery? Life for many, has become an invincible race against numbers. The more you run, the more difficult it become to make the numbers you need to survive. Addison Lee has unfortunately, become another victim of the economic greedy culture that took over the world. But not everything is lost. Addison Lee drivers have proved it last Tuesday (26). If people get united, they can stop abuse. They can stop the race to the bottom. What Addison Lee drivers have started will be an exemple for Londoners to challenge big corporations and the government for their abuse of power at will. We will stop it!

The apology made by the former Addison Lee owner, John Griffins, a day after the demonstration at Berkeley Square, made me think about the whole situation Addison Lee drivers found themselves in. For the past two months or so, I’ve been talking to drivers over the recent changes that brought so much pain for thousands of families that are dependent on Addison Lee success. For the first time, drivers decided to leave their “black comfortable world” of Ford Galaxy, Prius and Mercs, to talk to each other. What has prevented them from do it before was probably, a lack of a common reason. Now they have a common reason to unite and it’s a powerful one. There is now a common ground where drivers from all backgrounds, painfully share. They realised they have been robbed, abused, neglected, and pushed to the ground by the same people they are making richer everyday by their hard working.

Companies like Carlyle Group, the new owners of Addison Lee, are cutting drivers earnings by as much as 50% by ramping up charges, and changing the payment system to maximise their gains. Changes on payment happens very often and in many cases without warning. These new policies are letting drivers in a constant state of tension and unable to make any future plan. These practices are not only shameful, but they should not be allowed to happen in the UK or anywhere else in the world. The government is allowing big corporations such as Carlyle Group, to ship their profits to off shore companies avoiding paying tax. They leave peanuts for the British economy and make people grow into a cycle of unpayable debt. This is exactly what it’s been happening to thousands of Addison Lee drivers. My relation with Addison Lee was one of a love story. Now it has become my worst nightmare and the worst nightmare for thousands of Addison Lee drivers. Addison Lee is not the only company to suffer in the greedy hands of Carlyle Group. The roadside assistance firm RAC, has a very similar story. As soon as the firm was bought by Carlyle Group in 2011, workers started to be squeezed. Workers must realise what these big corporations are up to and react to stop them from turning good companies such as Addison Lee, into bags of rubbish on their ways to the dumps.

In the case of Addison Lee drivers, they have made a decision. Enough is enough! Last Tuesday (26), hundreds of Addison Lee drivers drove down towards Carlyle Group office at Berkeley Square in West London, to show their indignation against the new cuts and charges that saw an astonishing £25 million pounds being ripped off from drivers earnings in the past year or so. The situation is so bad that thousands of drivers have been forced to leave from their credit cards to pay the basic bills at the end of each month, pushing thousands of families into debt and poverty. There is absolutely no justification for cuttings of over 50% in drivers earnings. There is nothing in the industry that would justify that either. Profits at Addison Lee have been growing year on year. The only justification left for such aggressiveness towards the drivers is corporation greedy. That, coming from Carlyle group isn’t a surprise, but how long will they be allowed to continue with these destructive tactics? Addison Lee drivers are taking this matter in their own hands and they are threatening to stop working until a fair deal can be introduced.

Carlyle Group could have avoided public exposure by talking to the driver to find a fair way to resolve the dispute, but they preferred to ignore the drivers outcry. Since the demonstration last Tuesday, other groups are targeting the company by threatening to publish thousands of Addison Lee customers details on the internet if they continue to exploit drivers to increase their profitability. Although the drivers movement has no links with any radical group, it shows that public exposure can bring more harm than just negative publicity. In addition, Addison Lee and Carlyle Groups are also using intimidation tactics to stop drivers from taking part in actions, which shows just how low they are prepared to go to secure their objectives. So far, drivers have not shown any signs of backing off and as their unity grows, their confidence grows with it to help them to fight against injustice. The arrival of GMB to support the cause is a incredible development towards a positive resolution for the drivers. The General trade union is a powerful force behind their cause with over 630 thousand members, drivers are certain that the GMB experience will help them to achieve the justice they are looking for. In the mean time, new actions are being proposed for the following weeks and more demonstration such as the one on Tuesday, will take place in the near future until Carlyle Group realise that, Addison Lee cannot be without drivers. The fight continues…

 

WHAT’S NEXT FOR ADDISON LEE DRIVERS? (opinion)

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 16/04/16 –

The industry of minicabs and taxi drivers is not much different than other industries around the world. Industries follow a very similar pattern which covers demand and maximise profits. Like any other industry, there are different consumers with different demands which are usually defined by financial powers.

Your financial income will define the clothing you’ll wear, the car you’ll drive, the restaurants you’ll go to, the quality of services you’ll demand, the hotels and places you’ll go for a holiday, the supermarkets you’ll buy from, the airlines you’ll fly with, etc. This is why you can look around you and easily see why there are companies such as Asda, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland on one hand, and M&S and Waitrose in the other hand, as well as Morrison’s, Tesco and Sainsbury’s in between the two extremes. They exist to supply the demand of different groups of consumers asking for different types of products, qualities and prices. The same happens in most of other markets, where we can see the same pattern being followed by companies. You will decide whether to fly British Airways or Ryanair or EasyJet based primarily on your financial power.

Here in London, the minicab industry is going through a lot of changes, especially after the introduction of the giant Uber. But how much impact Uber has done to Addison Lee? Of course low prices will suck costumers from one place to the other but the likes of Ryanair and EasyJet didn’t drive British Airways out of business. In fact, for Addison Lee, the impact of Uber has not been, in my view, as big as it has been for blackCabs and other minicab companies, as they share a similar type of customers and use a similar pricing system. BlackCabs and Uber for instance, use a variable pricing system (meter), and Addison Lee use a fixed pricing system. For Addison Lee customers, the route taken to the destination is irrelevant as the price will not change. Avoit traffic is more important for them. For BlackCabs and Uber customers, a drive around the M25 to avoid the central London traffic can see the price surge many times over. So Addison Lee and Uber are more like British Airways and Ryanair. Prices might be different but we cannot possibly compare the quality and the professionalism offered by Addison Lee with those offered by Uber. It would be like comparing British Airways to Ryanair. It just doesn’t make any sense. Some people shop in ASDA and some others shop at Harrods. Some people fly British Airways, some others fly Ryanair. These companies survive because they have their own type of customers. The competition between the two only occur within a small percentage of the market. In London, there is no competition on the same level of Addison Lee. Over all, Addison Lee is the best MiniCab company in town and will continue to be as long as they continue to provide top quality service and don’t starve their drivers from a decent living wage. But is this what Addison Lee is planning for the future?

Addison Lee has obviously, lost a lot of ASAP jobs including CASH and Credit Card jobs, but hold on a minute, Addison Lee is still the best Minicab company in the UK with the best drivers, the best fleet, the best safety record and services. Moreover, Addison Lee supply some of the biggest and most important accounts in London with thousands of pre-booked jobs done every day. Addison Lee is also the most trustworthy company in London and is certainly the number one choice for Londoners, specially for women looking to go home after a night out. So who would you rather fly with, Ryanair or British Airways? Who would you rather travel with, Addison Lee or Uber? Of course, if you can choose, most of us would definitely go for BA and AL, because we know who has the best service and the best reputation, and people trust them. British Airways customers don’t fly Ryanair unless they have to. Just like Addison Lee costumers don’t use Uber unless they have to. So what could be behind the new pricing policy introduced by the new company owners in 2015? Why has these changes caused such mayhem for Addison Lee driver’s earnings? What is Carlyle’s plan for the future of Addison Lee? Could it be an incredible strategy mistake?

Although Addison Lee management claims Uber factor is behind the changes, nobody at Addison Lee has so far, been able to explain why the changes was only introduced in May 2015, three years after Uber started operations in the UK. But coincidently, the changes have been introduced just after the former owners of Addison Lee left the company and management in the hands of the new owners, the Carlyle Group, an American Hedge Fund with not the best reputation in treating their employees and known to have some of the most aggressive strategies to keep growing their profits. Therefore, the changes and charges being imposed on drivers may have been more to do with a change of management strategies than the changes in the market itself. But, the question stands, what’s next for Addison Lee drivers? They are working much harder for much less and they are completely blind about the future of the company. Is Carlyle squeezing the life of Addison Lee to sell it for scratch later on? As drivers leave the company in numbers never seen before, those who decided to stay a bit longer are starting to ask, is this the end for one of the best MiniCab companies in the UK? Discontent between the driver has never been so high, and despite many attempts to bring Addison Lee to negotiation, the company has either ignored or refused to make any compromises to the drivers’ demands. Those who haven’t left yet are considering actions against the company until both parts can resolve the dispute over deep cuts in payment rates and unfair charges.

Surely, there was no mistakes made by Addison Lee management when they decided to give their customers up to 30% discount and make their drivers pay the full costs of it. From the financial point of view its perfect. You transfer all the costs to your drivers and keep all the profits. It makes sense, but it is monstrous and imoral! How about Addison Lee’s corporate social responsibilities? These costs, adding to 20% commission fee charged by Addison Lee in all Credit Card and cash jobs, amounts to an incredible 50% charge from drivers earnings, but that’s not all. After that inicial 50% charge, Addison Lee drivers still have to pay for insurance, car rent, tax and fuel. Under such pressure, Addison Lee drivers have been forced to work over 15 hours a day for in many cases, just breakeven. Many other drivers are working 7 days a week with no time for family or leisure. It’s a very unfair situation comparing to what drivers use to have just a year ago. Addison Lee went too far to quickly on the cuts and was left with no leverage for future possible changes in the market. The market may have changed, but in no way it changed to justify the incredible cuts in earnings that Addison Lee drivers have been experiencing in the past year or so.

The same way we will not see British Airways dropping their prices down to compete with Ryanair, or M&S dropping their prices down to compete with ASDA, it seems that Addison Lee has no reason to reduce their prices, in many cases below Uber’s, to compete with companies which don’t really share the same type of customers and level of quality offered by Addison Lee. Even less, Addison Lee should never charge their drivers for the discount they may give to their customers. It should be the company’s responsibilities to fund any discount and sales promotion.What Addison Lee has really going through right now is a severe and very aggressive change on the way the company make its profits. The cuts and charges imposed by Addison Lee on their drivers went far beyond the line of survival and is utterly unacceptable. It is vital that Addison Lee understands and recognises quickly, that the hard work of their drivers is their only source of revenue and without drivers the company would not survive. Therefore, its paramount that a fair payment deal for drivers should be guaranteed and protected by Addison Lee so the future of the company and the livelihood of their drivers can be secured.