MORE DEMONSTRATIONS OR SIT DOWN AND TALK? THAT IS THE DILEMMA FACING ADDISON LEE DRIVERS AS THEY PLOT THEIR NEXT MOVE.
PROTEST DEMONSTRATIONS by Addison Lee drivers against job tariff cuts have made the company sit up and take notice. But what now? PHC went to a GMB hosted meeting in Euston to see what action the dissatisfied drivers are planning to take next.
STEVE GARELICK / GMB UNION – We need to get the message out loud and clear that Addison Lee drivers deserve better. They are doing airport jobs at prices that were being charged 20 years ago and there is something very wrong with that.
I do not like things that are imposed, I like things to be requested and negotiated. But, when that is ignored, there is a point when you have to step back and say, ‘no more’.
WHAT HAS UPSET THE ADDISON LEE DRIVERS SO MUCH? – In a word – money. Or in their case, the lack of it. The company has imposed a pay cut of up to 50 per cent on some job tariffs and mileage rates, plus an increase in insurance rates and commission.
WHAT DOES ADDISON LEE SAY? – A spokesman for the company said: “To ensure that its price proposition is competitive and attractive to customers, Addison Lee has cut its peak prices by one third.
We have also introduced a new bonus scheme during peak hours to incentivise our drivers and ensure they reap the rewards and are compensated appropriately.
“We can assure all our clients that our drivers are fairly compensated for their time and service. Addison Lee drivers – like most in the industry – work on a self employed basis and therefore decide their own hours. Drivers who work the equivalent of full time hours, focusing on our busier periods, earn more than the London living wage.
“Addison Lee prides itself on its close and collaborative partnership with its drivers. The company works hard to engage with them in a continuous process of dialogue, where any complaint or challenge can be resolved fairly and amicably.”
NO WAY, JOSE! – Addison Lee drivers however paint a very different picture. They say the cut in job tariffs – eg: W1 to Heathrow down from £63 to £39 – and a drop in mileage rates from £2.90 to £1.80 per mile were imposed without negotiation and is now hitting them hard.
Mark Morahan, who was voted in as a GMB shop steward at the meeting said:,
I have been going through my figures this year and for the last three months after January I have seen my income fall by 25 per cent. I work the same shift, so I know it is comparable. And this all started when the job rates were dropped.”
Felix Ajalafo told the meeting that the drivers had initially tried to talk with the management of Addison Lee: “At first we were keen not to affect the Addison Lee brand and their finances. We sent them letters and emails and we know they read them – the confirmation comes up on screen – but so far no one has got back to us. As far as the management is concerned, it is simply business as usual.”
DEMO AGGRO – The result of this lack of communication is, as we all now know, demonstrations outside the offices of the Carlyle Group, Addison Lee’s parent company in Mayfair, and around London.
Driver and GMB rep Simon Virgo, who also spoke at the Euston meeting, told a London Live reporter on the day of the demonstration that the “drivers were struggling” and felt they had no choice but to make their dissatisfaction public.
MANAGEMENT REACTION? – Simon says he was called into his manager’s office at Addison Lee and told in no uncertain terms that she did not want to see that sort of thing again. Clients had been ringing up on the day of the demo and wanting to know: “What the hell is going on with your drivers?”
But Addison Lee are just a small part of the Carlyle Group and dictate completely what happens at Addison Lee. They are definitely the organ grinders.
So what did the Carlyle Group think of the demonstration outside their Mayfair headquarters?
No official statement has been released but PHC was told that managers at the multi-billion pound conglomerate (allegedly) looked down on the Addison Lee driver protest outside and just laughed.
WHO ARE THE CARLYLE GROUP & WHAT DO THEY WANT? – Carlyle, founded and based since 1987 in Washington, America, is the largest asset management company on the planet.
Named after the Carlyle Hotel in New York where the founders met for meetings, the company has worldwide assets of around $193billion.
They paid £300million for Addison Lee in 2013 – long rumoured to be a figure plucked out of the air by management and unbelievably agreed to by Carlyle – and have been trying for the last year or so to “fatten up the turkey” for a nice juicy profit.
Nothing wrong in that, but according to Steve Garelick, the Addison Lee drivers now appear to be paying the price for a ruthless campaign to drive down costs and push the value of the company before a sale.
“Addison Lee was very much left to its own devices at the beginning when they were taken over. As long as they were making money, Carlyle didn’t care.
“But now, the management at Addison Lee are, I believe firmly under the control of Carlyle. There is no autonomy at all and the management look like they are just in it for their big bonuses when the company is sold on.
“And this is where their accountancy boffins come in with a strategy of ‘smoke and mirrors’ to try and fool the drivers into believing they are better off, when the truth is the exact opposite.”
REVOLUTION SOLUTION? ADDISON LEE DRIVERS SPLIT ON MORE ACTION – PHC has never seen a meeting so clearly split down the middle as to what best to do next and has reproduced some f the opinions expressed by the Addison Lee drivers.
- “The most important thing is to get Addison Lee to the table. We can talk all day long but none of this is going to anywhere until we can get the management to the table.”
- “We need to put maximum pressure on the management and the way to do this is to get 75 per cent of the drivers involved. I suggest that we form groups to target other drivers, eg; at the airport, around the city etc.”
- “If leaflets are left on the windscreens, the drivers are going to see it, plus the passengers are all going to ask; ‘What is this all about?’.”
- “I think our main focus now should not be about strikes or demonstrations. Instead, we should be building our numbers up. We need to get at least 2,000 or 2,500 to make an impact if we log-off etc. Then we can put in our demands. But we really mustn’t forget that Addison Lee is also a business and we joined them because we too want to earn a living.”
- “Further strike action is definitely the way forward. If there is a rumour that there is going to be another demonstration, then they will start to wobble a little. We have to get the message out there for a ‘potential date’ for a demo and that it will be bigger and nastier than last time. But when we put the dates out, we shouldn’t specify exactly what our plans are. We know that Addison Lee has spies everywhere.”
- “When push comes to shove, as it inevitably does when you are dealing with multi-national companies like Carlyle, they bully people and that’s how they make their money. A lot of you are saying that we need to look after the Addison Lee brand. But if we are afraid of them we will never get anywhere. We have to send a message to them, that if necessary, they can shove their brand and we will work for somebody else.”
- “I am disgusted by the way in which we have been treated by Addison Lee and we need to have a clear set of demands that are thought out. When you are dealing with organisations like Carlyle, you have to understand how they operate and more importantly, what their weaknesses are. We shouldn’t be too aggressive in our negotiations though. We, the drivers want a good deal and the Carlyle Group want to sell Addison Lee for as much as possible, so we should work together. We will help them to sell Addison Lee, but in return, we want the drivers to also be suitably rewarded.”
- “Addison Lee don’t want to talk to you guys. They never have and I doubt they ever will. So how do we get them to sit round the table? We’ve had our log-offs and demos and written to them ten times, but they still won’t sit down and talk to us. We should play the same game that they play. They didn’t acknowledge us at the beginning so we won’t acknowledge them now. Unless they are going to give us the £25m – their figures don’t forget – that they say it would cost to revert back to the old pay structure.”