Saturday, May 11, 2019

Did Rise And Fall Of The Mutual Society Lead To A Control/Dictatorship?.... by Anthony Minas

A Letter to Taxi Leaks, from LTDA Green Badge Branch Chairman, Anthony Minas.

Dear LTDA members,

As the former & most recent Green Badge Branch Chairman, I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to a recent article written in the TAXI paper on page 6, dated 30th April 2019, by the Chairman & Executive of the LTDA Mr. Richard Massett.
Even though the undertone of the article would seem set up to provoke a reaction, as the Branch Chairman , I’ll endeavour to press home the ‘facts’ as opposed to indirect or underhanded swipes. 

The branches of the association are structured in accordance with the rules of the association which sit naturally alongside a democratic pathway for any member to attend or if they were ever to have a desire to be a representative. During my tenure as Branch Chairman with Peter Walsh, who was elected as Branch Secretary, we managed to change the dynamics of branch meetings from those under the previous regime. We brought a modern freshness that had been amiss previously.
We invited guests from Nissan Dynamo Taxis, LondonTaxi PR, as well as Wes Streeting MP to mention a few.

Surprisingly, not once, even with guests of this magnitude, did one CoM member take up the invite to attend.
We also made space for members to ask questions & in return, we would provide the Council of Management (COM) answers from the previous meeting, which again, under the previous regime, was not forthcoming & when it was, it was only vague answers.

Richard Massett makes a point about holding a ‘forum’ style round table meeting where all members are encouraged to take part in the discussion. These ‘hand picked’ 20 or so members, which is completely against the democratic process and I might add, if you held one a month it would take over 40 years for the 10,000+ membership to have their say at these round table discussions organised by not the branches anymore, but the COM!

In 2016, The branch members recognised how quickly things were moving against the trade & put a plan & proposal together to counter attack the tirade of detrimental abuse to our trade. The beacon of that plan was to create a ‘forum’ for all members to assign to, reinventing the purpose of what the society (LTDA) was set up for.......It’s members. Without going into detail too thoroughly, the plan was well thought out and very detailed. The irony of Mr Massett’s article using the term ‘forum’ in a sentence alongside ‘encouraging members’ is fascinating as the members proposal was unanimously refused by the Council of Management, now, here we are, over three years later & once again, a collective bout of amnesia has kicked in, where, a ‘forum’ is the greatest thing since slice bread. The kicker to the members though, is the forum is controlled by the CoM, who can cherry pick whom they choose to attend leaving no confidence that any member who has challenged the CoM or dared to ask a pertinent question in the past, will, without exception, be blacklisted from being ‘invited’.
Who’d have thought it ?
When the LTDA was set up, a member of a mutual society having to be invited to a members meeting that they pay into ?
Also restricted as to what they can or cannot say ?
It’s very easy to call that positive trade talk, especially when it means, you can’t talk democracy or accountability! To myself, it has all the hallmarks of a controlled dictatorship.

Under my tenure, the LTDA branch meetings had reached attendances that had never been seen before.
I’ve never felt it a point of interest to include ‘who’ attended as it’s not an issue that I recognise as being a problem, but since Mr Massett has projected it in his article, as promised, I’ll respond. He makes a point which I personally find insulting being probably the first Chairman in the LTDA’s history of a mixed heritage background as is also the case with the Branch Secretary.

By calling on a “Cross Section” of people to attend the CoM’s hand picked members meetings ?
How insulting & isolating is that ?
How is Mr Massett racially & religiously profiling his members ?
Maybe the fact that he had only attended one Green badge branch meeting in two years, could be one of the reasons where his uneducated view come from ?
Maybe if he had attended , he would have seen the record amount of women in attendance ?
Words fail me when it comes to his point on religion, race & gender In a branch meeting, for two hours, we all share a common bond, it’s plain & simple for everyone to see......we are CAB DRIVERS! Religion is not part of the remit of attending & once again, if Mr Massett or any other member of the CoM would have taken up the constant invites to attend the  meetings, he would have seen a wide variety of attendees, from different ages, races and gender?
I will note, that during my year long tenure, none of the above was addressed to me EVER?

I challenge Mr Massett to present the membership with proof of any member of a different Race, Religion or Gender, who felt underrepresented at a branch meeting?
On the contrary, I could present the members with proof that ‘ALL’ members were included and encouraged to attend.
Also, before every branch meeting, new faces were always welcomed & encouraged to ask questions.

I was often told at CoM meetings to focus on leading from the front as opposed to focusing on those asking questions, one CoM member advised me, “Some members don’t want to speak or ask questions, they want to be led & sit & listen” ?
The CoM wanted to focus on those members, not the vocal ones who may ask an awkward question?
Collective amnesia again?
But let’s stick to the point Mr Massett makes and ask the question, if you are a member who isn’t vocal, who wants to listen rather than speak, where are you most likely to go?
To a branch meeting where you don’t have to do anything other than sign in, or, go through the charade of applying to a formal round table meeting where the pressure is on for you to speak in a face to face intimidating atmosphere chaired by Mr Massett himself and other COM members 
I think we all know which one it would be?

One of the bottom paragraphs in Mr Massett’s article says that the members who attended would like to attend again, who are these members?
Where are the minutes?
What was discussed?
What’s the quorum to pass a motion?
Where is the democratic pathway written in the rule book of the association?
All of the questions above would not be able to be asked at the members meeting according to Mr Massett.
He also mentions that they are looking to create a rota system to accommodate all members in future meetings, is this the same rota system as the marshalling ?

Under my tenure, the Branch members proposed to offer ‘ALL’ members the option to do marshalling duties. I asked for a new advert to be placed in the TAXI paper to give members the opportunity, (what if you’re a new member or missed the previous advert?) again, a unanimous “NO” decision was made by the CoM, stating that the members were given the chance when an advert was put in the TAXI paper back in 2015, & they missed the boat, “A bit like a job application” was one of the comments, “if you didn’t apply, it’s too late”!
Four years ago?

The rota to the marshalling is controlled by executive CoM member Mr Anthony Street and is certainly not a revolving door to every member, the only way you ‘might’ get a go, is if one of the regulars drops out and you’re on a very long waiting list.

Being on the waiting list to a members meeting does not go hand in glove with a mutual society, imagine if you were to say something that Mr Massett didn’t like?
It’s obvious what’s happening here & it’s nothing but control /dictatorship by the CoM, when the society is meant to be for the members ?

Co-operative principles are the seven guidelines by which co-ops put their values into practice, often called the seven Rochdale Principles:[20]

1. Voluntary and open membership.

2. Democratic member control.

3. Economic participation by members.

4. Autonomy and Independence.

5. Education, Training and Information.

6. Cooperation among

7. Concern for community.

Co-operatives values, in the tradition of its founders, are based on "self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity." Co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Read the co-operative values above, None of the Rochdale principles are being adhered to, in fact, they have been broken.

Mr Massett mentions ‘old style’ branch meetings in a pub, this again is insulting to the accommodating Horseshoe public house, who offered the members tea & coffee as standard with the meeting room at a very low rate for a central location.

They also provided a microphone & speaker so that all members could hear and be heard.
Situated in Clerkenwell Green, it’s the perfect destination for all green badge drivers to attend with free parking after 6:30pm. If Mr Massett would have bothered to come down, he would have seen for himself.

To round off, many in the trade are left frustrated that our trade will never be unified, there are lots of views on the reasons why, but here’s my take on it. The co-operative & community benefit society’s act (2014) is a act of parliament that all of our orgs fall under, the registrar to this act is the Financial Conduct Authority ( FCA).

A mutual society is perfect for our trade as individual self employed sole traders, it’s a movement that brings the paying members together as one force to fight off illegal acts against the trade & instills democracy within it, when a council or regulator is implementing policy to attack our trade, do you think they look at what legal cover the org has as a reason ‘not’ to abuse our trade?
They look at how unorganised we are, how fragmented we are, even within our own orgs. The biggest failure that has created disenfranchised members & infighting within our trade is the fact the the co-operative movement has been lost, abused & manipulated by past & current representatives.
On joining a society, you should be educated as to what it is before joining, you should be supplied the rules of the society & advised to read before making a decision.

A mutual society is not legal cover, legal cover is just a scheme added on to some society’s after it’s been registered. If you were to have been told from the outset that you are joining to be part of something, to have a say, to be encouraged to form a bond with your branch (sector) colleagues, I do believe that the trade would be in a stronger place today.

The only regulators of a mutual society are the members that pay into it, nobody else!
Instead we have been led into believing we’re joining to have badge-safe, legal cover, most pay in to give themselves conscious security but could go their whole taxi trade career without needing it, if it were just about legal cover, the LTDA would not qualify as a mutual society.
A cynic would say it operates more like a company.

It’s not known in the co-operative movement that executives within a society give themselves a wage, BUPA healthcare & company cars! Coupled with that, there is no Renumeration Committee to make a judgement on pay rises , pay reduction or bonuses!

Nobody who pays in, can actually see what an individual claims for or what it was spent on?
No member, is even sent an annual expenses report before the Annual General Meeting (AGM), so they can gauge an opinion before the meeting takes place to prepare some questions or raise any concerns?

In summary, the LTDA, as it stands, is not behaving like a Coop. The LTDA is being run like a company and one that the current COM feel they own and can do what they like. They cannot! It’s owned by ALL LTDA members. It’s time we took back our Association.

Thanking You All.

Anthony Minas.


Sean Paul Day said...

Fantastic article written by Anthony Minas ...experienced first hand.

During that period of time I was NEVER in doubt who should be running the LTDA...and if you think the LTDA is run better now than it ever was, that is due to the presence of someone who wasn’t one of the select few holding them to account in COM meetings.

However, it wasn’t meant to’ll always have apologists in every walk of life. Even those that professed a change was needed, once the wheels of motion were in place, they buckled and clung to what they understood.

Hence the old guard was allowed to rip up the rule book, expel 20 members in one fell swoop and reorganise proceedings that didn’t threaten the status quo

The systemic failure with the LTDA is rooted in their inability/ refusal to stand up to TfL.

A healthy industry needs to be transient. We’ve banged on for years how the trade desperately needs to find a better system for governance. Change cannot be achieved by the same people using yesterday’s tools.

The pressure on the LTDA to work in the best interests of drivers and not merely embed TfL’s policies in to the system will continue but unless there is structural change within the LTDA itself then the problems and risks the industry faces will continue to grow and mutate.

Regardless of which Union, .Org or Association you’re with, if drivers are not considered as the ‘bottom line’ then the industry’s descent into a one tier with PH is inescapable.

In the words of Bob Oddy himself;

‘It’s not what the trade wants, it’s what the trade is willing to stand for’


Ivan Corsby said...

Great piece , I left the ltda due to the weak efforts by them /failure to actually achieve anything

Anonymous said...

many many years ago, a friend of mine picked-up a visiting Japanese Professor, who was over here to give a series of lectures on his thesis, the basis of which was:

those, who once they get into a position of Power, then do NOTHING OTHER, than spend the rest of their tenure, consoidating their position

Anonymous said...

who actually owns the ltda?i,m referring to its assets,taxi house has just been sold,what happened to the proceeds?are ltda members also shareholders?is there actually a rulebook in existance for ltda members?.seems there are more questions than answers.