Minicab drivers brought the town centre to a standstill this morning (Tuesday) in protest at “sweatshop conditions” working for Addison Lee.
The protest called by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) branch took place at 8am at Luton Airport Roundabout, followed by a go slow drive over to Luton Council on George Street, and then a demonstration outside the council office, where they blocked George Street.
The drivers are calling on Luton Council to use the licensing powers to enforce legal workers rights of drivers.
Minicab drivers decry “sweatshop conditions” at Addison Lee, with their take home pay having fallen below minimum wage.
Analysis by the UPHD shows that Addison Lee drivers working often 70 hours or more per week earn little more than £1000, but after £270 in vehicle rent and 35% commission taken by Addison Lee are deducted, along with other associated costs such as fuel, drivers take home only around £225 per week in pay.
Drivers demonstrated outside Luton Council, calling for the council to use powers as licensing authority to enforce workers’ rights.
Frank Field MP received advice from the House of Commons Library which stated that this is within licensing authority powers.
Minicab drivers are also protesting against the indignity of their treatment by Addison Lee.
The UPHD reports frequent cases of workplace bullying, and the majority muslim workforce is required to make their daily prayers outside on the tarmac by the taxi rank due to a lack of prayer space provision, despite a commitment by Addison Lee to provide this.
The UPHD is calling for Addison Lee to:
- Reduce commission to 20% from current levels recently increased to 35%
- Withdraw vehicle rental price increase of £20 per week
- Pay drivers for time they spend taking Addison Lee vehicles for maintenance and inspections
- End workplace bullying now rife at Luton Airport
- Provide a suitable place of worship for drivers
- Respect the legal worker rights of drivers as confirmed by the Employment Tribunal in 2017
UPHD members at Luton Airport are currently in dispute with Addison Lee and balloting for strike action.
Notice of Ballot for strike action was sent to Addison Lee CEO Andy Boland on 22 February and ballot papers were dispatched to drivers on 1 March.
Sohail Choudhary, Chair of the Luton UPHD branch, said: “Drivers such as myself working for Addison Lee at Luton Airport have been reduced to working in sweatshop conditions and yet we can barely scrape by.
“The Council is the ultimate owner of Luton airport, benefiting from a lucrative contract that gives Addison Lee exclusive rights to operate at the airport, while having a responsibility as a licensing authority to ensure drivers like myself are not mistreated.
“It is a disgrace how Addison Lee treat their workers, and it is vital that Luton Council use their licensing powers and intervene to ensure our worker rights are protected.”
The protest follows on from a protest at Luton Airport on Monday, February 4, where drivers protested the pay and conditions working for Addison Lee.
An Addison Lee spokesperson said: “We are proud of our mutually beneficial arrangement with our Luton driver partners and want them to earn a decent living.
“As a result of our ongoing investment in our Luton operations since 2016, average Luton driver pay increased by 11.6% in 2018, year on year.
“To that end, the recent changes in our Luton driver partner deal included increases in fares to ensure driver income wasn’t impacted.”
A spokesperson for Luton Council said: “The council has fully adopted real living wage policies, which means not only that we make sure we pay our direct employees the real living wage but also that we encourage all businesses operating in Luton to do the same.
“The council is the sole shareholder of London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL), which is the owner of the airport.
“The organisation responsible for the running of the airport is London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL).
“The Addison Lee contract was issued by London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL) in an open and transparent tender.
“The council had no involvement with any operational decision making processes which were the sole responsibility of LLAOL.”
Yaseen Aslam, secretary of the UPHD, added: “Today is about raising awareness of what is happening and I know the protest will frustrate people and we do apologise, but people need to know what is going on and understand why these drivers are unhappy.
“Luton Council need to do more for these drivers, and that is why we are protesting here.”