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!

 

 

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!

 

 

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!