Thursday, December 03, 2015

From Roots, To Routs : By London Taxi Driver Marc Turner.

Alex Hayley’s Roots; Saga of an American family was published in 1976. A year later, ABC TV’s mini-series had a record breaking 130 million viewers in the US and millions more in the UK with its story beginning in 1750 and the birth of Kunta Kinte into a life of slavery. Roots follows his family’s battle against slavery through the years. 

London Cabby Marc Turner, recently spoke to an Uber driver and noted a similarity to that original series. Marc’s story is true. 

Kizzy is a 27 year old male who hails from Togo in West Africa. From the 16th century and for around 200 years, Togo was the trading centre for Europeans searching for slaves to export. It even earned Togo the name of The Slave Coast. Kizzy doesn’t think much has changed and describes his position nowadays as being in 'servitude' to Uber. “That's what it feels like,” he told me recently in the full knowledge that his words would be reproduced in Call Sign. He went on to explain those words...

“The UK is the mother of democracy; everyone wants to be here for its liberty, tolerance and safety. Uber welcomes migrants and refugees with open arms, allowing us to get a foothold – at least so far as work is concerned and where 'good' English isn't a necessity. Most drivers’ partners have other jobs as it is impossible to make a decent living on Uber unless you work around the clock.”

Kizzy often has to sleep in his Prius in order to make his working hours pay. I asked him if he felt exploited? He earnestly replied that it was better to take Uber’s crumbs then to steal from his neighbours! He told me that he rents his car but refused to talk about his insurance status and added that working for Uber was unpredictable, varying between slack and busy.

He said he prefers short rides with their £5 minimum, but dislikes ‘roaders’ because the fares are so cheap and just not economically viable. He tends to call punters with an excuse if a job doesn’t suit him and gets them to can- cel, earning himself a fiver! If they don't cooperate, he will pretend they’re not at the pick- up and scrub it. Contrary to rumour, Uber do allow some rejection of jobs, but if drivers continue to do so they will be deactivated without notice.

Ratings are another pressure. If they drop, drivers get a call enquiring whether they know their way around town. Kizzy admitted to me that he often hung up at Eurostar. When I asked why, he replied honestly that at hourly earnings of around £6 (well below average minimum wage) he had to put himself where the work was.

I asked Kizzy what he thought of licensed taxi drivers? He rather touchingly gestured a bow and then pronounced: “You are the undisputed kings! Taxis are the father, Uber is the baby. If baby gets smacked for continually crying, it will scream louder. Baby needs to be embraced and caressed and taught how to behave properly.” I impressed on him that was TfL’s responsibility and not ours! I was then taken aback by Kizzy’s assertion that young women loved Uber.

“They can't resist the cheapness, despite surge pricing or even feeling scared of the drivers. They all tend to make contact with loved ones as soon as they enter my car because I think they don't trust me! The majority of night customers are young women. Their usage is phenomenal. They may even be the deciding factor in this conflict.”

I had one final question to Kizzy; what were his hopes and predictions for the future? His answer wasn’t one I really wanted to hear: “Uber is dropping prices again to try and attract new passengers from all over London even though it will aggravate ‘partners’ with rising commissions. If we raised our fares and you dropped yours, we could meet somewhere in the middle. We Uber drivers shouldn't be ene- mies with taxi drivers because we have one thing in common – our mutual hatred of Uber.”

At that point Kizzy, genuinely tearful, admit- ted that he didn’t want to be an Uber driver for much longer. He found it to be so stressful due to his not being qualified for the rigours of responding to ‘immediate hire’. In other words, he didn’t know his way around.

At that point, I thanked Kizzy for his time and insight. We parted company – he to yet another night’s sleep in his car followed by another day in Uber bondage. I wouldn’t dream of saying it directly to Kizzy for fear of offending someone who had been honest in his responses, but there was obviously a tenuous link from Alex Haley’s Roots to Kizzy’s lack of Routes and Uber... 

There but for the grace of God go we... and please, don’t blame the messenger!

Another Uber drivers sleeping in his car at McD's car park, Bow interchange.

Seasons Greetings to one and all...

Marc Turner 


Gerald Coba said...

As much as I despise the concept of Uber and the devastation being cast upon our trade by these drivers, I am still a human being and I can't help but feel for these people.
As Marc says, there but for the grace of God go I
Nice piece again Mark.

Lee G said...

Goodwill to all Men. Greedy yank bastards.

Anonymous said...

rubbish story made up to make black cab drivers feel better this crap doesn't help the fight ffs in fact you should be very careful talking about subjects like slavery as the knowledge boys and current gb drivers working for peanuts and craps from the uber table are bigger slaves

Anonymous said...

Yeah ok Marc, when your daughter or grandchild gets every orifice on their body violated by an individual from a third world country that thinks that rape of an individual is acceptable if they consider they don't conform to their warped radical ideology - then you find out TFL has licensed them on the strength of a letter of good conduct they they have purchased from their country's embassy, you will be singing a very different story.

Nobody forced your pal to come to this country, he's an economic migrant from a French colony. If he feels used and abused in this country, why doesn't he go to France and work for UBER without any national benefit handouts. ZZZZZZzzzz

Anonymous said...

Good will to all men LEE .G. Lol.., That's a coincidence my neighbor is from Togo , and working for uber , he has 7 kids and a wife he brought to the mother country so he could get them free house free schooling free Nhs and uses food banks on top of all the DHS handouts , tells the dole he doesn't live at home so wife gets the full Monty . He's sharing a Prius with his brother, none of them got accountants none of them paying a penny tax . ITS SO HARD FOR THE POOR SOLE . Good will to all men lol .

Anonymous said...

We are in the busiest 2 weeks of the year and its worst than January , I counted 50 uber cars picking up in front of me last night all decent business people and respectable punters , faces light up when they work out witch prirus. is theirs and then they run to the car all smiles . If the unions can't do anything , at least they should be warning drivers not to invest in a new cab ,,, Why would the Chinese want to invest in a Black cab , they must be more stupid than us ,, It's like investing money in to a fleet of zeppelins from London to New York after the Jet engine has been invented , Nissan new what was going on they shut up shop and run ...,

Anonymous said...

Uber pool ,lowering their prices,and taking 20/25% . Uberpool wont work because their will be less fairs for their 10s of thousands of drivers,imagine if they start taking up to four passengers their will be thousands just driving round empty earning less than what they earn now which is next to nothing now (apparently ) ,and how much Lower can they go with price before ther drivers realise they can earn more at another minicab firm where they get paid proper money for the job they do and don't get knocked for 20/25% of it , and what happens when the 6 seaters start having an effect on bus and tube revenue which won't be long the busses at night are empty as it is so uberpool will definantly have more of an effect on the money they bring in for tfl and the gov. And let's not forget with uberpool you don't know if the person or persons your sharing with is safe,I think we'll see quite a few incidents over the coming weeks just wonder if any will make main stream news,mmmm doubt it. I think über are falling apart ,their desperate ,most of their investors are struggling to see when they will start getting some of the money back they put in,it won't be within the next ten years so the investors are being a bit more reluctant to part with their millions or should I say billions . Any intelligent businessman/woman will only invest so much before they realise it will take to long for them to recoup their money and then start earning ,and über have to recoup billions before they start earning any money for their investors.
Be Lucky All You Cabbies.

Battersea bob said...

I describe uber drivers as sweat shop workers,TFL say they want a cap on the numbers,why?at this moment in time they are getting around ?40.000.000 per eighteen months,I reckon the turn around of these drivers is 18 money money.

Anonymous said...

I am still dumb founded that younge women for a cheap ride will do anything.
Would you get in a black cab and need to call a loved one because you are not confident of the car you have just got in.
The driver may not have had a crb,the car may not be insured,the driver may not even be the guy in the photo.
My god the public need protecting from themselves.
That is why there needs to be REGULATIONS and strong ones at that.
I would not put my daughter,mother in an uber and cannot believe that people do.
I dont feel sorry for uber drivers.
They do not research their jobs and do not care that they do not know their way around.
Most are a menace on the roads and the quicker something is done to protect these exploited drivers from being exploited the better.
On all points,
TFL,DAVID CAMERON,GEORGE OSBORN AND BORIS JOHNSON must give themselves a huge pat on the back for bringing london to a standstill and letting an AMERICAN company who only benefits themselves in this,GET AWAY WITH IT.(slavery)

Anonymous said...

Comparing low wage earners to actual slaves, whether modern or historic, is ridiculous.

Yes these drivers earn little.
Yes they have to work long hours.
But they can walk away at any time.

There is a story to be told about this vile company. It is one that people need to hear. But it is not a story of slavery. This article is just a crass, overly dramatic ill conceived attempt to highlight a real issue that needs discussion.

I don't think is reflects well on the trade as a whole. Let's not pretend we care about mini cab drivers earnings or wellbeing.

We need to continue to fight. Let's keep our aims honest. Otherwise we leave ourselves open to ridicule by those who wish to hurt us.

Be lucky,
An average cab driver.

Anonymous said...

There is one major flaw in this story..its not compulsory to work for Uber!!..however if you can just about speak English, have no qualifications and choose to arrive in one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world, your job options are limited to say the least.

Anonymous said...

The good old experienced phv drivers are all leaving the trade, even I can not make min. wage ! 15 years driving in london not one complaint, not one accident, helped plenty of Londoners out when they find themselves stuck in a tight corner, taken girls home for free, helped police several times, going to work Xmas and then I'm off, don't want to be part of this chaos any longer...