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!

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.

 

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!

 

 

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!

 

 

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…

 

A LETTER TO MY DEAR FELLOW FRIENDS

London, 07/04/16 –

I’ve just been to a meeting last night with my co-workers to discuss the struggles we have been through after the company we proudly work for was sold to what I like to call, an abomination form of modern exploitation firm, more commonly known as hedge fund. These terrible structures with the same rights of a person, works like huge hoovers sucking up the money from everything and concentrating it in the hands of few people. However, this letter is not about companies. I prefer to write about a subject that I love dearly which is people. I already knew a lot of my co-workers via social media, but haven’t met most of them until last night.

Unfortunately, I arrived late and by the time I came in, the chaos was already taking place. My first thought was: “this is not going to work”. I set down and watched my friends talking over each other while the speaker tried frenetically, to maintain control of the situation. Some people including myself, couldn’t hide the frustration over the lack of organisation we were witnessing. But, by listening and observing what was going on before my eyes, I was brought to terms with one of my own concepts of democracy. In my view, democracy is a chaotic system, and it is bound to be chaotic because this is the result of everybody having the same rights when everybody thinks differently from each other. What could we expect from a system where people have different views, different religions, different backgrounds, different political thoughts, but the same rights? It could be nothing differently from chaos. Nevertheless, this system still the best system because it gives power to the people.

The way to get some form of order from this chaotic system is by electing representatives like countries do when they elect governments. This is what I think we should do with our movement. We should not be naive to expect we can have meeting after meeting with three thousand people in a room and get consensus from it. This is not going to happen! Meetings like we had last night should be done only to vote and elect new representatives if at all. The rest of us, including myself, should be limited to discuss the points put forward by the board and bring the representatives to account when needed. Once we have a consensus, the board will have the power to take it to the company. That’s why the social media is vital for our case. Everyone of us should have access to our online group so we can have instant access to all the decision being taken by the board of representatives. Future meetings should be taken only by the board of representatives which shouldn’t be more than ten people. The decisions and the actions should then, be posted online and discussed by the members. It is easier to have online meetings where everybody can participate from the comfort of their homes.

We should not be worried about the meeting attendance number. I don’t think we can ever get a thousand people to attend a meeting somewhere, but I am sure we can have the support of the majority of the people if we have online meetings. Moreover, last night we were representing every fellow worker, even those who didn’t know anything about us. Once one know we are taking action, one will join in and support the cause we  all share. I am sure that any action we may take in the next two weeks from yesterday, will have close to 100% adherence. After all, it’s much easier for people to join in the action from wherever they are, than make them drive all across the town just to be in the meeting room. The number of attendance in meetings isn’t more important than the number of people join in the actions that we have decided to take. What we need to do now  however, is to keep talking to each other in the internet group and don’t waste any chance to talk to any of our fellows whenever and wherever we have the opportunity to do so. Communication is vital! When we talk to each other we know we are not alone. If I am approached by more than one of our friends in a single day to talk about the actions we are taking, it will give me a sense of power and unity. The less we talk to each other, the bigger the chance that the sense of power we have now will fade away. It doesn’t matter if we disagree here and there. The central point is that we are all being exploited by the company and this must change.

My fellow friends, it’s been a pleasure to meet you and talk to you over these past weeks. The experience gave me the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people and make some very good friends. It also gave me the opportunity to better understand the concerns and priorities that are affecting all of us for the past year or so. You told me your stories, opinions and suggestions which enriched my sense of human being. Your stories brought me closer to a better understanding of the human drama and the effects and consequences that we are all going through. The problems we are facing today brought us together in a way many of us haven’t experienced before. Friendship is a blessing brought to us this time by common life struggle, and although the past year has been incredibly hard, the opportunity to meet you and be part of this movement is priceless! I am sure that if we can stay together and support each other, we will have the power to take control of the boat and steer it towards calm waters. Whatever the weather, my advice is this: Keep calm and UNITE!

Best Regards! Michaell Lange.