FORMER GMB member Clive expresses his opinion about last month’s GMB column and Steve Garelick, secretary of the professional drivers’ branch of the union, addresses those comments…
I read the GMB column in the last edition and would like to make the following points and ask some questions.
CLIVE: Why are the GMB becoming supportive of proprietors?
Is it because the new branch secretary is a proprietor himself and attempted, but failed to change the name of the branch to GMB Professional Drivers and Proprietors?
STEVE (GMB): I have never hidden the fact I have a small private hire operator’s licence and also drive myself.
Furthermore a name change has never been discussed at branch level. However, in view of the fact that whilst the predominant membership is self-employed hackney and private hire drivers, there is, and has been for many years, a portion who are operators, and we should not hide that fact.
CLIVE: Uber, to me as a working driver, is a god send which enables me to escape the clutches of the average spiv operator who floods the circuit, cheats and abuses drivers, corrupts the topographical test and in general regards drivers as second class citizens. The GMB should be supporting Uber. Perhaps they can explain why they don’t?
STEVE (GMB): The GMB line on organisations which avoid UK tax are clear. Be they Uber, Amazon or Starbucks. And you cannot expect me to change the branch or union stance on this.
I have personally put questions to Jo Bertram, general manager of Uber London, regarding how VATable drivers are treated, but am yet to hear back on this. I have also made it clear we are open to discussion.
The GMB is not anti-Uber, although we have reservations about some of their operating practices. In light of the legal action being taken by the LTDA against six private hire drivers, GMB recently voted to protect the rights of any driver who is an Uber driver (or driver from any app), providing they are a member.
CLIVE: We were told membership is growing. Really?
Some years ago it was 4000 plus. I believe it is now below 500. Why?
STEVE (GMB): Under the leadership of the previous branch secretary membership had been in steady decline resulting in a net loss of more than 1000 members.
With the use of social media and other assets, we have started to redress the balance.
Indications are that we have now turned the corner and our membership is increasing at a steady pace. However, I think from Clive’s comments he is clearly already in possession of the answer as to why he chose to leave. Perhaps he is one of the number who left prior to my taking over?
I can only assume others left for the same or similar reasons.
CLIVE: There were references to successs in the last GMB column. Perhaps someone could inform us exactly what these successes are?
STEVE (GMB): Due to space limitations, here are a few of our achievements;
-solving badge and health hurdles for those relicensing with TPH
-private, direct meetings with with Garrett Emmerson of TPH
-improved sanitary conditions at a company in Stansted
-reinstatement of a driver after a series of major disputes over their treatment
-gained a favourable package of new terms and conditions, including improved pay, at a major company
-interfacing with police over touting issues, including an invitation to view operations
In addition to this we have recently made representation or reports to the London Assembly, Aylesbury Council on behalf of Redplates, Abelio on Cabline, Basildon drivers, and others as well as on the proposed closure of Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden.
CLIVE: I reckon this is just another rip-off. If it really is good, please explain how?
STEVE (GMB): Thorne Credit Union is not like a pay day lender. The idea of credit unions is that they lend ethically and also offer savers reasonable rates.
To ‘reckon’ that a credit union is a rip off is not only surprising but somewhat bizarre and shows poor judgement. I recommend Clive takes a look at Thorne’s website or calls them.
CLIVE: The column said that Steve Garelick was ”unanimously” elected “unopposed”.
How’s that if there is only one candidate, as there would, of course, be no vote?
Votes are only taken in a contest. Is someone trying to cover something up?
STEVE (GMB): To be honest, I think the branch organiser was trying to make sure matters were transparent and that is why there was a vote.
There is no conspiracy or cover up. Minutes of meetings are always available to members.
CLIVE: While we’re at it – where is former branch secretary, Terence Flanagan these days?
I didn’t like his politics but he got me out of the crap on a couple of occassions. He was a real good negotiator and creator of the branch.
Rumour has it that he has been expelled. Is this right?
And is that why the GMB is becoming ‘guvnor’ friendly?
STEVE (GMB): The situation with Mr Flanagan relates to union issues and not branch issues and for this reason, I am unable to comment.
Regarding the comments about the ‘Guvnors’. I am unable to ascertain who these ‘Guvnors’ are that you alledge we are friendly with and what you suspect we are planning with them?
CLIVE: I’m thinking of rejoining the GMB but not until these questions are answered.
Maybe someone will answer them in the magazine?
STEVE (GMB): Hopefully the answers provided here are concise enough to remove any doubt in Clive’s mind and assure him our committee is working to improve the GMB Professional Drivers Branch, increase membership and make it better equipped to face the challenges and changes that lie ahead.
Clive and any other industry professional wishing to discuss membership can find my number on our website.