Thursday, September 15, 2016

Letter To Taxi Leaks : "The Better I Do My Job Today, The Better We All Do Tomorrow"


Our trade has written numerous articles and blogs in recent times, as many drivers (myself included) feel compelled to express our anger and frustration at the injustice we see unfolding before our eyes.

But one issue that is not so well documented is the personal strain that many drivers and their families are feeling as a result of the relentless morale bashing we are all experiencing. It's inevitable that tensions in family life rise as worry over job security and the ability to provide for our families takes its toll.
The natural reaction to take out daily frustrations on those closest to us is something we must not give in to.
We must constantly remind ourselves   that our partners are also feeling the same pressure and are worried on our behalf - even if they may roll their eyes occasionally after we mention the dreaded 'U' word for the umpteenth time each evening!

We must remember that for many of us, they were by our side throughout the highs and lows of The  Knowledge, from helping us call over to providing support after a disheartening appearance, they were with us. Every time the stresses of our current situation arise we must not forget this.

It is, of course, perfectly understandable for us all to feel deflated at the moment.
Without just cause the media relentlessly drags our good name through the mud proving the immense power of PR in its ability to sway public opinion into any direction it wishes. The avalanche of unfounded, and often personal attacks, on our character continues week after week as we ask ourselves
"What have we done to deserve this treatment?"

Each and every taxi driver has always played by the rules, following guideline after guideline not simply since they became a cabby, but from the minute they signed on to The  Knowledge. From that first obscure Manor House to Gibson Square run we have built a bond with London and a love of everything we thought it stood for.

TfL and our current government seem to be doing their utmost to destroy that bond as they actively  undermine our contribution to our city and play down our worth to the general public. Let us not kid ourselves that TfL's distain towards our trade is a new phenomenon. Since they inherited us from the Metropolitan Police, they have shown an ongoing and growing resentment to a trade that has done nothing more than give exemplary service to Londoners for over 300 years and is still the world leader in its field today.

Without even the pretence of impartiality from our regulator, is it any wonder that many drivers are feeling so undervalued and possibly even losing faith in London itself.

Yes London is changing and always will - but improving? I'm not so sure.  The London I grew up in seemed to have stronger values. It was a place that was built upon a spirit of fair play without the need to tread on everyone in your way to reach your goal. The 'comply or you are expendable' ethos is typical of London's new working culture and is very evident in the cut-throat nature that is being shown to the cab trade. Our government continually preaches  about how prosperous London is, whilst ignoring the fact that it's workforce is forced into working excessive hours in a city that none of us can afford to live in anymore.

Don't get me wrong, London is still the greatest city in the world, it's just that much of its greatness is being dismantled by government officials that seemingly tread a fine line between corruption and incompetence. Many of our current politicians are happy to give away yet another homegrown industry to uncaring foreign corporations that meticulously calculate how they can take as much from this country without giving anything back.

This is exactly what is happening to the London taxi trade. Under the pretence of innovative technology our government and regulator are effectively sanctioning a corporate takeover where the little man will be voiceless, controlled and kept firmly in his place. But what can the average driver do to fight back? 
It goes without saying that the minimum we should all be doing is to lobby and apply pressure to the MPs in question and support trade demos. The majority of our day to day issues we drivers have no say or control over; fare structures, traffic schemes and choice of vehicle to name just a few. We, therefore, must make clear demands of our trade orgs as they represent our voice in the above issues.

We have a choice to either let the deterioration of our working environment beat us into submission or we can roll up our sleeves and raise our bar even higher to provide a service that the public is thankful for.

The over-saturation of the private hire market means the public have more choice than ever before. However, this has also led to PH standards sinking to new depths. 
Through our quality of service we must ensure that the majority of the public only use a minicab because a black cab was not available and not vice versa.

As 25,000 sole traders we must replace our 'we work for ourselves' belief, with a 'we work for each other' mindset. 'The better I do my job today, the better we all do tomorrow' is the necessary mantra we must adopt to have any chance of surviving and flourishing again.

The overwhelming sense of achievement we all felt when completing The Knowledge is something that unites us all.  It is impossible to convey that 'badge day' feeling to someone who has not experienced it. Any driver who has been interrogated in a 24ft room by Mr Ormes or Mr Finlay knows that anything Leon and Travis throw at us is trivial in comparison. 

So the next time you put on your badge, puff out your chest and wear it with pride like it's the day you were awarded it. We have a long battle on our hands but when our battle is finally won and family life returns to normal, we can thank our loved ones for their unwavering support. After all, they are the ones we were really  fighting for all along.

John (@Igot Ormed)