Former Chairman Eddie Lambert responds.
In the last issue of Call Sign, Alan (the Ed) stated that he would like to see just one driver trade group representing drivers.
Whilst I can understand his thinking that this would give the trade a possibly much stronger voice than it has.
I must disagree with him. I think it would actually weaken the trade. (Ed’s note: to save confusion, I suggested the LTDA)… Due to the forthcoming election, many Bills have been pushed through Parliament in a process known as the wash up with huge amounts of horse trading going on, whereby parties from all sides of the House have agreed to amendments to Bills that they would normally have opposed, in order to get through other amendments in Bills that they strongly favoured. But one Bill that has not undergone this horse-trading is the Transport for London No2 Bill. The reason this Bill has not gone forward to be added to the Statue Book, is that following a meeting we held with the Hayes and Harlington MP – RMT sponsored John McDonald – about what Clause 19 would mean to the London Hackney trade, he organized a campaign inside the House to oppose it.
Clause (19) would give Westminster Council the power to have a voluntary registration system for the pedicab / rickshaw trade. It would also have given these pestilent vehicles waiting / ranking spaces in the west end. Had this come to pass, how long before the fully licensed, drivers and vehicles insured, CRB checked (?) road tax paying Private Hire industry, would demand – at the very least – parity with this vermin?So why is this relevant to my argument? Well, at the moment we appear to have the “United Trade” comprising of LTDA, LCDC and Unite altogether representing possibly 40% of the trade and until the RMT taxi branch formed, the only voice of the working driver on the streets of London. Well that was their opinion of their position. I personally think differently and I think February
5th 2009 and the huge trade demonstration, proved it. There was a huge turnout of drivers and although I take my hat off to the work that went into organising such a fantastic turnout, it must be open to debate whether the majority of drivers that turned out were actually members of these organisations or just wanting an opportunity to express their frustrations with the powers that- be over many issues and not just the illegal minicab rank in Whitcomb Street. This demo gave them their chance to show TfL, PCO, Westminster and others how they felt.
However, I feel that the so-called “United Trade” has been neutered by the appointment of its highest profile trade leader to the TfL Board. When I was with the T&G Cab Section (before their love-in with the LTDA) we constantly opposed the appointment of a taxi trade member to this Board, as we knew that when it actually came to dealing with taxi trade items, the Board member from the trade would not be able to take part due to a possible conflict of interests. It could easily appear to some that not rocking the TfL Board’s boat is now the name of the game.
After all, the “United Trade” has not run up its flag and attacked the London No2 Bill – with the slight exception of the LCDC occasionally making some noises about the Bill, but for some reason or other generally not making too much of it. The other two members seem to support the Bill, although how much of this support is actually from the working drivers of the organisations and how much is from the leadership, is difficult to tell.
The demo also saw the first public outing for the RMT Taxi Branch – a bit earlier than I would have liked as much organising needed to be done before launching, but the opportunity was too good to miss with the RMT Banner claiming many press photos. Since then we (the RMT) have come under regular attack, with many of those attacks against its personnel – including the high profile General Secretary, Bob Crow and for some strange reason, Janine Booth, the Chair of the RMT’s London Regional Council. Her crime appears to be that she attended a branch meeting
and spoke for about 8-10 minutes before going home to relieve her husband of his child-sitting duties so that he could go to work. Admittedly, she did not say much about taxi matters other than that she would be giving support to a few items we had brought up at a Regional Council meeting relating to taxi issues.
I do not wish to get into a mud slinging contest, as all this does is to generate much pleasure within the offices of those that wish ill on the cab trade and those who constantly seek to exploit it, but I will answer a couple of points that keep being dragged up…
Working Time and Tachographs…? Yes, the RMT supports a restriction on working time and the compulsory fitting of tachographs – but this applies only to vehicles of over 3.5 tonnes! This is also something Unite have campaigned
for in the past. The reasoning isn’t rocket science. Tiredness and stress are major contributory factors to RTAs. As taxi drivers, we spend far more time on the road than most of the general public, so we have an increased chance of being involved in an incident with a driver in a 3.5+ tonne vehicle who’s been at the wheel for hours at a go facing unrealistic timetables; these restrictions and the fitting of tachographs to help enforce them must help improve safety on the roads.
We see no need for tachographs in London taxis – or any other taxis for that matter!
Just for the record, the Department for Transport have said they have no intention of this either. However, if certain parties keep bring the issue up, it is feasible they could change their mind, so my advice to them is to shut up and let sleeping dogs stay asleep…
And “joining with” the GMB…?
The other issue is that of the GMB who in London turn away taxi drivers – although they do recruit them outside of town. That is possibly one reason Unite – who have always claimed to be the biggest Union organising the trade nationally (doubtful now) – saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. The RMT have not joined with the GMB to promote anything. We have no agreements with the GMB, other than if a PH driver wants to join, we turn them towards the GMB. This is the policy nationally; we do not say one thing in London and another everywhere else, unlike Unite who do have large numbers of PH drivers across the country.
Be it partitions in minicabs or outsourcing of topographical tests that new PH drivers must take before getting a licence, (currently conducted by companies seeking to take £70- £80+ per week off these prospective drivers – not much of an incentive to fail them there). Then there’s the stopping of the PCO telling PH companies when they are coming to inspect their books. With the exception of fitting partitions in PH vehicles – which the RMT oppose – nearly every hack driver in London would agree with the other policies. Strange that we have not heard much about these from the “United Trade.”
The quote on the bus lane issue by the GMB minicab leader originally said that he was sure he “would fight us (RMT) to the death on the issue.” Make no mistake, of that he is right. There must be no PH in bus lanes.
So back to the opening issue of one trade body representing drivers. If you have only one body, then the leaders of that body become complacent, they get used to agreeing with the powers that be and corrupted by nice dinners and plenty of stand down pay etc. As Leon Trotsky said: “To continue the revolution, you have to keep renewing your leaders.” What is really needed is two large driver organisations who have to compete for members against each other, so they keep trying to give their members the best deals and representation.
On Monday 12 April, I stepped down as Chair of The London RMT Taxi Branch due mainly to time consuming problems following the death of my father late last year. I wish all the best to the new committee that was elected, thanks to all those who for their own reasons have also decided to take a back seat for a while, but especially thanks to all those who gave me the great privilege of being Chair in the branch’s first year.
Taken from original source, Callsign.