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!

NOT HAPPY? TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 11/05/16 –

They say: If you are not happy, just leave it. Find another job! But I say, not quite! 

You probably have heard that rubbish frase at some point in the past year or so. I had the unpleasant experience to hear that from a fellow worker suffering from the same unfair cuts that we are all going through. But, I try not to get upset by these comments. However, they do make me think a lot about why someone in the same situation as I am can say something so silly as this. I understand that everybody have their own priorities and ways of thinking, and many others just don’t understand what is really going on. If everybody could have a clear picture of what Carlyle Group is doing to Addison Lee drivers, I am sure that every single driver would be rebelling right now. But there is a careless factor in saying “take it or leave it”. It’s almost a statement of ignorance or even worse, a statement of complete disrespect to people. It goes beyond egoism and misunderstanding about the world we are living in.

When you say, take it or leave it, you are basically, speaking only and directly to one person, missing the point and the bigger picture by a mile. It does not solve any problem, it only creates more resentment. My question is: What about the rest of us? What about the other three thousand fellow drivers? Or even, what about the other hundreds of thousands of people suffering deep cuts in their incomes? I wonder if there is any legitimacy or any sense at all in saying, take it or leave it. What if all underpaid drivers, cleaners, washing-ups, cashiers, waiters, labours, chefs, helpers, and all other unskilled workers follow the idea of “take it or leave it” and decide to leave it? Firstly, where would they go to? Secondly, how would society function without these vital services? So, if you like to say, take or leave it, you are either a complete reckless individual or you haven’t got a clue of what you are talking about. If you fall on the second category, there is hope. Differently from what many people think, I believe that in many cases ignorance is an alibi. If you don’t know what you are doing, at least you should have some form of diminished responsibility, at least in some cases such as the one we are talking about now. In one way or the other it is, in my view, unjustifiable.

Another thing I would like to say to those people exercising their full rights to talk nonsense, is this: If I leave, where would I go? Is there an alternative? Is it take it or leave it a real choice? Or is this term used only to highlight the fact that between the two apparent choices, only one is really reasonable? Of course that if you are in a sinking boat and all other boats around you are also sinking, the only reasonable option you have is to stay where you are and try to save the boat you are in. The water isn’t really an option is it? So, why do some people on the same sinking boat as you, are criticising you for trying to save it, which inevitably would save them too? If the boat is going down, what is stoping you from helping those who are trying to save it?

My fellow Addison Lee drivers, I understand the power of fear and intimidation. Even when fear means fear of losing something you don’t really have. After all, if you work 60 hours plus, a week and at the end of each month you can’t even pay your bills, do you really have a job? Or is it just an occupation? The fact that matters to me the most in all of this mass caused by Carlyle Group, putting all of us through such financial pressure is this: We make all the money and Carlyle Group are telling us how much we can keep, which right now is something very close to nothing! How can we possibly accept that?

For me, it’s simple. I will not take it, and I will not leave it! I will stay and fight to the end to save this boat and everyone else on board, including all women and children! But I will not be able to do it by myself. I need your help. We, the Addison Lee Drivers United, need your help! Remember, a lot of people thought Titanic was unsinkable. I try to learn from history. I know that Titanic would never had sunk if the captain of that incredible ship had his passengers at heart instead of just try to break speed records in an area full of icebergs. We are the Addison Lee passengers and Carlyle Group, is unfortunately the captain of this ship, and our captain has no regards for its passengers. The only thing that matters to our captain is record breaking just like the captain of Titanic. Ladies and gentlemen, our ship will probably have the same fate of that of Titanic unless we combine forces to save it. It is a matter of time and therefore, we must stop our captain Carlyle from steer our ship recklessly towards the rocks. I remember some other famous shipwrecks. I was on board one of them recently. It was called Lewis Day plc. It was big, but it went down very fast. Another famous shipwreck was the City Link. This ship was also big and went down on Christmas day 2014 with everyone on board. Are we prepared to let our ship Addison Lee goes down like those ones, or are we prepared to fight Carlyle Group and stop them from throwing our ship to the bottom of the sea? We must decide it now! We have no time to waist and not much time to think. If you are still not involved with those already fighting to save our boat, you should seriously consider joining in as quick as possible. Don’t be careless! Don’t be afraid to fight for dignity and fairness! If we don’t fight back we will have to keep listening to those people telling us over and over again that rhetorical and nevertheless upsetting frase: “take it or leave it”. I’m not going to take that!

We are making every single penny of those hundreds of millions of pounds of Addison Lee profits every year while those responsible for making all the money are left with peanuts. When we complain they say; Take it or leave it. We are paying all the costs of our job including the costs of running the company while they are left with all the profits. But if we complain, they say: take it or leave it. We are taking all the stress and the long hours on the busy streets of London while they enjoy the honey, and when we complain they say: take it or leave it. We work allegedly like employees under a self-employment contract with no workers rights whatsoever, but they say: take it or leave it. Well, its time to make it clear to Carlyle Group that we, the Addison Lee Drivers United will neither take it nor leave it. We will stay and fight for our jobs and for those allegedly £25 million pounds taken from the drivers earnings in the past year alone so Carlyle Group can make Addison Lee’s numbers looking good for potential buyers. We will not take it or leave it! We will stay and show that Carlyle Group has no right to push thousands of Addison Lee families into poverty just to make their numbers and results looking a bit better. We will not take it! We will fight it and we will win it! If you are out there somewhere in fear, get up now and join this fight. Our fight!

 

 

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.