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.

LETTER TO ADDISON LEE’S DRIVERS

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 25/05/16 –

I just woke up feeling the hungover from yesterday’s (24) events. It was a long and tense day. I woke up at 4am as usual, for a 5am pick up and worked until 9:30 when I logged off and made my way to Regent’s Park where we gathered for the demonstration before driving down to Berkeley Square for a 12 noon protest outside Carlyle Group’s office. The atmosphere was great. It is good to see when people get united for a common cause, and I was feeling really proud to be part of that. Some of the drivers were applauding the drivers arriving at the gathering point. These are brave men and women I respect dearly!

At Berkeley Square everything was going accordingly to the plan. No violence, no threats or insulting shouting but instead, a loud and clear message that we are not happy with the way our beloved company Addison Lee has been managed by Carlyle Group. Everybody behaved in a proper manner. I was vigilant to any signs of trouble, but there weren’t any. From Berkeley Square we drove down to Parliament Square via Trafalgar Square. The protest at Parliament Square was mostly silence and lasted for about 20 minutes before we dispersed. Some drivers did sound their car’s horn before being advised not to do so. Although, it was nothing like the protest at Berkeley Sq. Some of the noise was actually coming from other vehicles either supporting us or complaining about us. Otherwise it was completely silent.

After the protests each driver went their own way, but things were about to turn nasty. I received a call from the driver’s liaison asking me to go to the office. I went to the representatives group on Telegram just to find out that two other representatives had also been called in. However one of our Reps have been allegedly told by Addlee officials that Addison Lee’s CEO were waiting to talk to us, so I felt optimistic about it.  Once we got to the office it felt like they were all over the place. It did look chaotic and those supposed to talk to us were clearly distressed. The atmosphere was so tense that I was still feeling sick the morning after. It was clear that the second demonstration struck the core of Addison Lee/Carlyle management. Incredibly, it was still not enough to make them willing to talk to us. Instead, they have done the last thing any serious and ethical company would ever do.

Since the beginning of this movement, I was totally aware that this struggle was going to get nasty. And yesterday it did. I cannot express more how proud I am for those who conquered their fears yesterday and came to the demonstration at Berkeley Sq to pacifically protest against what in my view, is an huge injustice and an attack against our values and pride we always had of Addison Lee.

After the demonstration yesterday, Carlyle/Addison Lee high management started what they think is the solution for the drivers revolt. One by one, representatives and other drivers, allegedly blacked-listed by the company for highlighting the unfairness of their activities, were unfairly targeted and sacked by Addison Lee. No previous contact were made, neither to negotiate or to resolve the dispute. No warnings or talks, just a direct and unjustifiable sack! It was in my view, a clear display of a centuries old tactic of beating people up into submission. But the world has moved away from those dark periods. Now, in the 21st century, some hedge funds and big corporations are using the same tactics to bring people, governments and in many cases, entire countries into submission. What they haven’t realised yet is that like during colonialism, those tactics failed and they will continue to fail today. Mahatma Gandhi, probably the biggest symbol of that resistance once said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.

My fellow drivers, we have been through the phases where we have been ignored by them and laughed at by them. Now they are fighting us, and as Gandhi once said, now we will win it! We can’t ignore this fight! Like in any battle, those at the front line will be the first to be shot at, but these front liners should inspire others who will take their places, and the battle will continue to rage until a fair solution can be achieved. Me, together with some other fellow drivers were shot at yesterday. But we are still alive because in this battle they cannot kill us. Not even silence us. Fear is a human being thing I understand. I feel fear too. Like many of you, I have a family to provide for. But we cannot allow fear to take control of our lives and make us run away from those responsible for all this misery. They must be stopped! We must stand the ground and fight against this injustice. My family and your family deserve better! Addison Lee deserves better! Remember that we, the drivers, are the real Addison Lee! Those at the high management are just investors looking for their returns, which I also understand and it isn’t wrong. Let’s be clear here, we want people to invest in Addison Lee and maximise their return as much as possible. We want Addison Lee to be successful! What we reject is the idea that we have to pay for all the cost of those investments. We are happy to see investors interested in our company, but they also need to understand that without drivers, there is no return for their investments!

We should continue to be proud to work for Addison Lee as we should continue to offer our customers the best minicab service in the UK. However, we must fight off any potential investor who only see importance in their own return. Investors like Carlyle Group are destroying our brand and our livelihood for the benefit of themselves and we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour. We will continue to challenge Carlyle management until they return our money. They should know by now that the only way they can get their investment back, is by given back the money taken from Addison Lee drivers. If they continue to refuse to sit down and negotiate, I feel sorry for their shareholders because there will be no returns from their investments, there will be only losses. Moreover, Carlyle’s reputation is well on the line here, and that should be another good reason for them to resolve these problem as quick and wisely as possible. So far, Carlyle Group has shown a complete lack of such virtues. It is very unfortunate that we have to come this low and yet be refused access to Carlyle management. Let’s be clear, there is no other way, and there is no way back from here.

Best Regards!