BRAZIL GOES OVER THE FALLS

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 24/05/18 –

After 10 years of strong economic growth, nearly full employment rates and a huge prospect for the future, Brazil, the 5th biggest country and the 6th biggest economy in the world, made a sharp turn towards the cliff edge.

Since Dilma Rousseff became the 36th President of Brazil in 2011, a political impasse between her presidency and the congress, brought the government to a halt. Rousseff, a technocrat with no talent for politics and even less abilities to articulate agreements with the opposition, became the pivot of the worst political crises since the military coup in 1964. Her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a very charismatic and a master of political articulation, made history by successfully fighting poverty and transforming Brazil’s economy.  Lula however, allowed an old and systematic culture of corruption in the government to carry on freely in order to fulfil his ambitious social policies which lifted over 30 million Brazilians from extreme poverty. Lula left the government in 2010 with over 80% popular approval, and a reputation recognised worldwide for his poverty reduction policies. For the 2010 general elections, Lula appointed Dilma Rousseff as his candidate, and despite never been elected for a public office before, and having very little political experience, Rousseff won the election to become the first female president of Brazil. However, she was very incompetent, she was possibly the most incompetent Brazilian president in history. But, she wanted to combat corruption. For that, she gave total freedom for the federal police to investigate any evidence of corruption in and out of the government. Although, she’s not recognised for that, Rousseff should be known as the mother of the so called “lava Jato” – Operation Car Wash – the biggest corruption investigation in Brazilian history. As the investigations deepened into State and Federal governments, politicians started to panic. The congress united to sort things out by impeaching Dilma Rousseff in a process where 75% of the politicians whom voted for her impeachment, were either under federal investigation or already formally accused of corruption and money laundering. Soon after Rousseff’s impeachment, the president of congress was sent to jail. Lula himself was jailed alongside some of the biggest businessmen in the country.

The new president, Michel Temer, is probably one of the most corrupt man in the land. He also implemented a plan of austerity to reinvigorate the economy by curbing workers rights, raising taxes and cutting social benefits meant to help the poor. It didn’t work. Unemployment rates rose from 4.5% in 2012 to 13% by December 2017. Inflation is at around 10% pushed by almost weekly rise in energy prices. While politicians fight each other in the congress, the economy nosedive. It’s one of the worst economic recessions in Brazilian history and things are rapidly getting worse.

Ten days ago a small group of truck drivers decided to block roads in protest against the rise of fuel prices. The price of Diesel reached R$ 3.80 Reais per litre. On average, a truck (lorry) makes 2.5 kilometres per litre, and drivers are paid about R$2.00 Reais per kilometre, which means an income of R$1.20 ($0.54 Dollar) per kilometre, and that’s before insurance, maintenance, taxes, toll roads, food, and other costs. It’s totally unsustainable!

As of today, with the support of many transport unions from all over the country, truck drivers stopped working nationwide. It’s been four days with only a hand full of trucks being able to deliver goods, these are mainly tankers, escorted by police vehicles to keep airports running. Supermarkets are running out of food and other goods. Petrol stations all over the country are running out of fuel. Perishable food is being wasted. Many slaughterhouses have been forced to stop. Thousands of litres of milk have been wasted daily as there is no way to transport it out from farms to supermarkets. Ports have been unable to load and unload cargo ships as there are no trucks available. Almost the totality of Brazil’s production is transported by road. The strike of truck drivers is causing a total meltdown of Brazil’s economy which could, in a matter of days, develop into a catastrophic social and economic disaster. So far, meetings between representatives of truck drivers and the government have ended without agreement. Authorities are predicting that if the situation remain the same, its a matter of days before the main airports start running out of fuel, and food shortage reach breaking point. If the government don’t find a solution for this crisis quickly, the strike will evolve into a general strike ending either with the collapse of the government or with another military coup. Neither of these options are good to Brazil. To make things more complicated, this October Brazil will vote again on a general election with no candidate with a clear plan to stop the fall before the crash. Many Brazilians fear the country could become another failed state such as Venezuela, many others think Brazil is already at that point. Will Brazil learn the lesson this time? Only time will tell.

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.