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.