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!

 

 

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.

 

BRITISH REFERENDUM ON THE EUROPEAN UNION (OPINION)

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 10/06/16 –

 

Yesterday I posted my vote on the British Referendum on European Union. Like many of us I was confused and extremely disappointed by the way both sides of the campaign have been conducting their arguments to the public. It is no surprise that the trust on politicians is so low. The fact is, we cannot trust them! So I decided to do my own research and make a decision based on my feelings and experience. I have a degree in International Relations and Politics and this helped me to separate the truth from the false, at least as far as my eyes can see.

The first thing I have done was to go back to the bases of the European Union. What was the main reason for Europe to unite and create such a huge and complicated institution that we know today as The European Union? How did we get to the point we are today and what would be the real arguments to remain or to leave the EU? Is it better in or out?

There is no easy answer for the referendum question, but we can work out how interests are dividing businesses, political parties and the people of Britain. How interests are played out to the public by the media, and for whose interests? My suggestion is: Don’t trust politicians and the media. Trust your own feelings and make sure your decision will not come back to bite you. You maybe going to find a conclusion complete the opposite of mine, but that’s the beauty of democracy . After all, it will be your conclusion, your decision and not a third part decision based on third part interests sold to you cheaply. Do not sell your conclusion!

Like most of you, I am also worried. I am worried about the future of this country and about the future of my family. I also think we are all missing the point here. Most of the campaign on both sides are spending too much time on the economy and immigration issues when in my eyes these issues are not totally dependent on whether we are in or out of the European Union. In fact, China and the United States are the two main concerns regarding the state of the economy in the entire world including Europe and Britain. What they do and don’t can bring the whole system into crisis. Even the Euro Zone crisis was not caused just by the pit falls of the European Union, it came from abroad with no boarders or regulations being able to stop it. Immigration is also linked to international forces we can’t always control. The Euro Zone crisis brought a lot of Europeans with free movement into this country, that’s a fact. But wouldn’t they come anyway if we were out of the EU? Of course they would! People have moved around the globe for thousands of years and for thousands of reasons. The only difference is that the people working here legally today would be here otherwise illegally, but they would probably be here any way just as much as they are in the US and Germany because these countries are doing better. Leave the EU might double the number of illegal immigrants living in Britain, but it’s still just a possibility. In addition, there are thousands of Chinese, Indians, Africans, South Americans, Australians, Russians, Americans and people from all over the world living in Britain today, legally or illegally and none of them are part of the European Union. So, who would be there to stop the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French, and the Italians? Can we blame the immigration issue on the EU only?

An economic disaster in the Euro Zone would probably see levels of mass migration from Europe into Britain similar to those seen from Syria into Europe today, and this is regardless of whether Britain is in or out of the EU. When people feel threaten they move to a safer place whatever and wherever it is. So as long as the world is balanced and people are not forced out of their lands by bombs and famine, mass migration can be avoided. Britain is a vital player in maintaining this balance in the EU as well as throughout of the world. Whether we can play this role better in or out of the EU is a question we all must ask ourselves before voting on the referendum in just 10 days time. Building walls, closing boarders, sending the army or any other radical method offered by radicals today, have been tried before by old radicals and failed, and they will continue to fail until governments realise that it’s impossible to stop millions of people from fleeing wars to save their lives. It would be a crime against humanity anyway. The point here is that neither immigration nor the economy can be totally controlled by our government. Another important point to take into consideration is this: Some of our Laws and regulations are made by Brussels, but how better our government would do? The Liberals said they would not touch the University fees. The Labours wanted to tax our houses, and the Conservatives, well, the Conservatives said they would lead Turkey into the EU, and now they say otherwise.

The media claims the Conservative party is divided. Well, in my view their strategy is a win-win situation. If we vote out, David Cameron will step down and give way to Mr Boris Johnson. If we remain in the EU, David Cameron was always right. How would  Tories lose it? On the other hand, the Labour Party and the Liberals find themselves working for the Tories whatever way you look at it.

For us, the people, the problems with politics are the same. They lie just as much as they need to convince us to believe them. We should question what our politicians are doing with the power they already have. Are they doing a good job? Can we trust them? If you have any doubt, ask this question to Fire Fighters, Junior Doctors, Teachers, Tube Drivers, Black Cab Drivers, TATA Steel workers, University students, Disable people, the elderly, the soldiers. Ask them if we can trust our politicians and listen to what they have to say.   So why should I listen to politicians’ claims that we are losing sovereignty and decision making powers when they are unable to prove they can do a better job with the power they already have in their hands? They can’t blame everything on Europe all the time.

However, my main concern in leaving the EU is Peace. Peace in Europe is the bases of everything else in the lives of Europeans. Without Peace, there is no economy, no growth, no jobs, no integration, no holidays in Spain and Portugal, and no immigration control. Peace was the main reason behind the creation of the EU, and that idea stands firm today. Nazis and fascist groups are still strongly operating underground all over Europe including here in Britain. The way the EU stands today would be almost impossible for these radical groups to rise to power and cause another war in Europe, it’s been successful in that task for more than 70 years.  However, if the EU collapses as a result of Brexit (British Exit), the idea of 27 countries in Europe going their own ways, facing economic depression and unemployment, it would certainly create the perfect storm for such groups to rise up to power again. Russia would be looking to Europe with a lot of interests. We already know the consequences of this recipe. Who can guarantee that the British exit will not create such catastrophic situation? I prefer to believe in possibilities than just blindly believe in what I wish for the future, and the EU meltdown is a real possibility.

The reality is that, if I had a couple of million pounds invested in the EU, with the Brexit looming ahead, I would be very concerned about the future of my investments. I would be looking for a safer place to keep my money until the uncertainty goes away. It is almost certain that the price of gold will rise sharply just before the referendum, like after 9/11. People always tend to find a safer place for their money during difficult times. Thus, if every investor feels afraid of losing their investments, they will move away from the Euro zone causing the collapse of the Euro and a chain reaction with disastrous consequences. Of course it would be the worst case scenario, but who can guarantee it will not happened? I also like to start any analysis from the worst case scenario.  Personally, I believe that Britain would be probably better off out of the EU. Nevertheless, it’s the consequences of the exit, and how these consequences may affect the whole EU structure and eventually the balance of Peace, that concerns me the most.

Even if we leave the EU we will still need to change the way the EU operates because right now, it is not functioning the way it should. When the EU does not functions well our economy is affected. Be part of the decision making is vital to push for changes. Isolation in the 21st century is as ludicrous as the Trump Wall. The economy and the rest of the world are pretty much working as one single unity, and I believe Britain cannot have more control of its economy just by leaving the EU. The TATA Steel saga is one big evidence of that. Decisions about the future of thousands of British steel workers were decided in India. The decision of Arab countries to force the price of oil down in the past years caused thousands of job losses in Scotland. Be out of the EU would have made no difference in these cases. It seems to me that if we leave the EU, the concerns we have today such as immigration and the state of the economy, will continue to exist, but then there will be no turning back.

It is widely known that the older generation of Britain is more Europe skeptical and therefore, more likely to vote leave. My concern is this: My son is three and half years old and his generation is more likely to live the full consequences of the decisions made by the older generation today. Are we taking the future and the wishes of the young Brits into consideration when deciding whether to vote to remain or to leave the EU? or, are we thinking so selfishly and only taking into account what we feel about Europe today? The young Brits are most likely to vote to remain, so isn’t it the case for the old Brits to think and listen to the wishes of the young people about where they want Britain to be in the future? Some of the old people of Britain thinking about vote leave will see very little of how their votes will affect the future generations. My son is more likely to live the consequences of a Brexit his entire life. I decided to vote for the young people. I decided to vote for my son. I decided to vote for Peace in Europe. I decided to vote to remain. Good Luck Britain!

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!