Uber decision in the EAT: drivers win!

November 10, 2017 at 11:17 am (GMB, Human rights, law, posted by JD, transport, workers)

Barrister and employment law specialist Daniel Barnett reports:

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has just handed down its decision in the Uber decision, upholding the employment tribunal’s ruling that Uber drivers are ‘workers’ and thus qualify for workers’ rights.

* BBC report here

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Addison Lee drivers are workers, rules tribunal

September 26, 2017 at 4:59 pm (law, posted by JD, transport, workers)

Employment law barrister Daniel Barnett writes:

Most readers will be aware that yesterday an employment tribunal ruled that Addison Lee drivers are workers, not self-employed. The judgment is here.

Meanwhile, Uber’s appeal against the decision that its drivers are workers begins tomorrow in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Yesterday’s news makes this paragraph in Uber’s skeleton argument somewhat unfortunate:




[Thanks to Leigh Day and Rachel Farr for the above information]

See also: The Spectator, how Addison Lee became bad news for London drivers

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Unite statement on Uber: Sadiq Khan and Transport for London have done the right thing

September 23, 2017 at 8:17 am (London, posted by JD, profiteers, transport, Unite the union)

Statement from Unite:

Black cab drivers’ union Unite, has today (Friday 22 September) praised mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) for putting the safety of Londoners ahead of big corporate interests by deciding not to renew Uber’s licence to operate in London.

Commenting chair of London’s Unite black cab section Jim Kelly said: “The mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London have done the right thing in putting the safety of passengers and Londoners ahead of the big corporate interests of Uber.

“Dogged by controversy, Uber’s approach has been to exploit workers and bend the rules while trying to brush passenger safety concerns under the carpet.

“No one is above the law and today’s decision will be welcomed by London’s trusted professional black cab drivers. It signals that the mayor of London and Transport for London are not prepared to allow London to become the ‘wild west’ of the cab trade and put passengers at risk.

“In the coming weeks Uber will no doubt throw all its legal and corporate lobbying might to overturn this decision. We would urge the mayor of London and Transport for London to stand firm and continue to stand up for the safety of Londoners and the capital’s trusted cabbies.”


For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.

See also:

Guardian piece by this driver  who welcomes the sanctions against Uber.

at first you could make a good living. But then Uber slashed prices to attract customers, and began recruiting on a massive scale to keep up with demand. Not only did we end up with more drivers working longer hours, for worse pay, but some of those drivers should never have been behind the wheel.

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Southern Rail dispute: blame the government’s Wilkinson for sabotaging the talks

August 9, 2016 at 3:39 pm (Jim D, RMT, Tory scum, transport, workers)

Amid the sound and fury surrounding the RMT’s strike on Southern Rail, one name is gradually emerging as having played a crucial role in having ensured the action went ahead: Peter Wilkinson.

Mr Wilkinson is managing director of passenger services at the Department for Transport (DfT).

The RMT says that last week  it was “within an inch” of reaching an agreement during talks at Acas. This account is backed by unnamed “sources” who told The Times that a deal had been “within touching distance” but that Southern’s negotiators had suddenly pulled out of the talks at about 4pm on Friday, leading to the collapse of the talks.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT can confirm that we were within an inch of making progress towards boxing off a deal with Southern in Acas talks on Friday afternoon that was based on the offer from ScotRail, an offer that enabled us to suspend all industrial action in the ScotRail guards dispute.

“We were just getting into the detailed wording when suddenly the plug was pulled and our legs were kicked from under us.

“We have it on good authority that the deal, which would have enabled us to suspend the Southern strike action this week, was sabotaged by the Government with their director of rail, Peter Wilkinson, directing operations from outside the talks.

“We are now taking our protest direct to the DfT.

“We want the Government to stop weaponising the Southern dispute for political purposes and we want them to stop treating passengers and staff as collateral damage in a war that Peter Wilkinson has unilaterally declared on the rail unions.”

It appears to be the case that Wilkinson (paid £280,000 per year) intervened to instruct Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, to reject the deal.

Earlier this year Wilkinson told a Tory public meeting in Croydon:

“Over the next three years we’re going to be having punch ups and we will see industrial action and I want your support,”

“I’m furious about it and it has got to change – we have got to break them,” he added.

“They have all borrowed money to buy cars and got credit cards.

“They can’t afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place.

“They will have to decide if they want to give a good service or get the hell out of my industry.”


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The Railways: Nation, Network and People by Simon Bradley

March 14, 2016 at 8:38 am (history, Rosie B, transport, Uncategorized)

I’d like to be magisterial and say The Railways: Nation, Network and People by Simon Bradley is the definitive work, or as comprehensive a book as you can find on the history of Britain’s railways. I’d like even more to be the happy pedant, pointing out lacunae in the description of how Britain adopted the standard gaurge against Brunel’s broad gauge. But I know almost nothing of railways, though I love travelling by train, so have to come to this book as the general reader of a well-written, entertaining piece of social history that cites novelists and poets as well as engineers. Simon Bradley quotes the book-making Victorians – Dickens, Trollope and Surtees as well as films like Brief Encounter, The Railway Children and the opening scene of a Hard Day’s Night, where the Beatles dodge their screaming fans “behind poster hoardings and into telephone boxes and photo booths” in the cluttered concourse of the 1960s.



Bradley’s book tells a big story – the technical development of the railways and their social impact, and embroiders it with fascinating details eg the contents of the luncheon baskets and the placing of toilets, the slight ring underfoot on the Southern Railway’s preferred concrete over timber platforms. He devotes a whole chapter to signals, which doesn’t stoke my boiler, however, his writing flows and he never loses sight of the human beings – in this case, the solitary signal-man on duty in his box. He explains the sensible height of British platforms (set at 915mm i.e. 3 feet) with a step or two to the train compared to the steep climb on the Continent. He gives the reason why Cambridge station is such a trek from the town centre because the dons feared loss of control of undergraduates and pulled strings to ensure that the station was built well over a mile away from the town.

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Former platform on National Cycle Network 1

The railways created their own kingdom “a physically separate domain, in thousands of route-miles fenced off from the rest of the country and ruled by their own mysterious rhythms and laws.”

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Cyclist on National Cycle Network 1

Simon Bradley was a young train-spotter – not just of the locomotives but of those working on them. “Driver and ganger alike belonged nonetheless to the world of proper work, visible and practical and comprehensible – a world away from the office-bound lives of most of our own fathers.” He conveys the excitement of the Victorians as this great force entered into their lives, as transforming as computers and the internet in ours. The landscape was altered with embankments and tunnels and viaducts.

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Detail of former railway bridge, now carrying cyclists and pedestrians

He points out that bridges were a relatively rare sight before the railways came. Oldest bridges were almost all bespoke structures. Only when canals arrived were bridges multiplied to standard engineers’ design. Now their striding arches are one of the splendours of the British landscape. (For cantilevered iron, the Forth Bridge beats the preening Eiffel Tower any day of the week, and how much finer the Glenfinnan Viaduct is than pompous static showoffery like the Arc de Triomphe.)

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Viaduct on the National Cycle Network 1

“Part of the fascination of the railways is their permeation with memories and traces of obsolete working routes, and the human lives and destinies they shaped. The physical record is often patchy, because different aspects of the system have changed and developed at wildly varying speeds. The modernised freight network envisaged by Dr Beeching is already utterly lost; the diffuse small-scale system which he knocked for six is more remote still. Yet the bridges, tunnels and earthworks that carry the twenty-first century traveller are still predominantly those the Victorians witnessed take shape.”

Bradley moves beyond the Victorians and their share-owned competing railway companies through to British Rail and to today’s mess of ownership – state subsidy of dividends to share-holders:-

“The old British Rail system was subsidised between 1 billion and 1.5 billion. Subsidies since this time have reached as high as 6.3 billion….Much of this money comes nowhere near the operating side of the railway, but is sucked straight out again in dividends, administrative and legal costs ,inflated salaried and bonuses. Nor is the system cheap for its users. [Grossly expensive, and Byzantinely complex in fact.] All of these features are intrinsic, not accidental, parts of the business model under which the railways were privatised – a process that,… was meant to address the supposed scandal of a public opened system which required high subsidies in order to operate. It has proved an extremely expensive way of saving money.”

Though Bradley does follow to the modern age via the marshalling yards and the change to diesel, it is the Victorians and Edwardians who dominate from when the technology was innovative and exciting.

The new words such as stoke, shunt, siding, running out of steam, on the right lines. Time, once set by the “guildhall and town hall and church steeple” was set by the “power of capital”. The landowners were challenged and there would be battles between the surveyors and navvies and estate workers where theodolites would be smashed. (In Middlemarch there’s just such a scene – not quoted by Bradley.)

As the railways developed they were felt at the time to be as unstoppable and transforming as our own digital revolution. So in Trollope’s Rachel Ray set in Devon, which was late to be connected, the timid matron Mrs Ray says of her journey to Exeter:- ‘“I thought the train never would have got to the Baslehurst station. It stopped at all the little stations, and really I think I could have walked as fast.” A dozen years had not as yet gone by since the velocity of these trains had been so terrible to Mrs. Ray that she had hardly dared to get into one of them!’ ‘ There are obvious comparisons with the elderly of today who once wondered at the young’s sci-fi interweb thing now complaining of the speed of their Skype.

The railways have been with us for long enough to have created their own archaeology. I live across the road from the busy Edinburgh to Glasgow line, which I walk or cycle under every day. My commute goes past an embankment which was once a line and is now the National Cycle Network 1 cycleway. On the route are ghosts of platforms and you are riding unaware over a viaduct which is visible from the street a hundred feet below. There was a railway yard, now a place for billboards (advertising was a huge feature of Victorian stations). Another part of it is scrubland which the Council is planning to turn into a further cycleway, restoring a bridge or two.

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Once a railway line, now scrubland, future cycleway

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The living railway, Glasgow to Edinburgh line

When I see the great nineteenth railway structures – the viaducts, the Forth Bridge, the grander railway stations, I feel that we are lesser beings living in the half ruin of a mightier civilisation. We don’t build such grandeur any more but conserve with our heritage industries, our endless touristing.

Bradley’s last chapter is about the volunteers running old lines. He describes a “steam-hauled express arrives from a visitant from the another world, a sort of industrial unicorn or dragon.” Crowds gather to view this icon of another age, as beautiful and obsolete as a full-rigged man of war.

“Made vivid again, here is something that transcends Nature, an amazing work of man; what H.G Wells, writing in 1901, proposed as the best symbol for the century that had just passed, ‘a steam engine running upon a railway.”


The Flying Scotsman

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End #RailRipOff on Monday – protest at Kings Cross and stations across the country

January 3, 2016 at 12:30 pm (posted by JD, privatisation, profiteers, protest, RMT, Tory scum, transport, Unite the union)

In January, passengers returning to work after Christmas will see their fares rise yet again. Over the last five years rail fares have risen nearly three times faster than average wages. We have the highest commuter fares in Europe, yet services are often overcrowded, late and under-staffed.

Although the government has pledged to cap rail fare rises to inflation for this parliament, fares will still go up by one per cent in January 2016, making already exorbitant season tickets a cost too much to bear for most passengers. The Department for Transport’s own figures reveals the cost of the cap to taxpayers will be £700m over the parliament.

British passengers continue to pay much higher fares than passengers on publicly-owned railways in Europe. We need an affordable railway under public ownership that puts people before profit.

Come and join us at Kings Cross Station on Monday 4th January 07:30am – 09:30, and at stations across the country. We will also be asking supporters to email their MPs – watch this space for more details!

If you would like to organise an action at a station, please get in touch with us at actionforrail@tuc.org.uk.

#EndRailRipOff Protests on Monday 4 January

(please note this list is regularly updated) Read the rest of this entry »

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Bob Crow is dead

March 11, 2014 at 6:08 pm (Jim D, RIP, RMT, stalinism, transport, unions, workers)

RMT general secretary Bob Crow

Shocking news that still hasn’t quite sunk in. The general secretary of the RMT, and probably Britain’s most militant trade union leader, Bob Crow, has died aged just 52. Regular readers will know that some of us at Shiraz have had our criticisms of him (and the RMT regime he presided over) in the past, and it would be hypocritical of us to pretend otherwise now. But we never doubted his commitment to our class and to basic trade union principles.

An RMT comrade writes:

“He was at RMT Women’s Conference on Friday, getting an argument from some of us about women’s under-representation in the union!
“I’m sure I will write something balanced and considered in due course, but for the moment, this is just a terrible shock. Whatever arguments and criticisms we’ve had, Bob was one of the best union leaders in the country, if not the best. His vilification by the right-wing media is testament to that.”

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TSSA: update on the basket case of British trade unionism

January 2, 2014 at 8:04 pm (Guest post, transport, unions, workers)

Guest post by Merle Stotten

TSSA is welcoming in the New Year with a ballot on strike action in opposition to plans to axe jobs, cut rates of pay, and close down workplaces.

But it’s not TSSA members who are being balloted. It’s TSSA’s own employees – the ballot has been initiated by the GMB, the union recognized by TSSA for collective bargaining on behalf of its staff.

According to a GMB newsletter issued in mid-December:

“On 13th December GMB wrote formally to TSSA management to inform them the union was in dispute over their proposals for staff re-organisation. … Your reps know the level of anger and frustration at how badly the union has been run recently.”

Three days later another GMB newsletter announced:

“GMB Gives Notice of Ballot for Strike Action! Further to our update on Monday of the declaration of a formal dispute, GMB have today written to the General Secretary giving the legally required notice of a strike ballot.”

“In line with the unanimous vote at the staff meeting of 20th November, and in the light of management’s refusal to withdraw and reconsider the proposals, we have no choice but to ballot for strike action. … Ballot papers will be dispatched on 2nd January.”

TSSA-watchers will be aware that TSSA proclaimed 2013 to be the Year of Horror: “This Halloween we launch our campaign theme for next year, our Year of Horror 2013. … Our Year of Horror 2013 will provide us with a platform to raise awareness of the crisis in the rail industry.”

2013 was indeed a Year of Horror – but first and foremost for the TSSA itself.

The year opened with the collapse of merger talks with Community. In September Unite rejected a merger with TSSA. In October the “Sunday Times” published allegations by former TSSA President Harriet Yeo about the union’s ‘internal life’.

In November TSSA management announced proposals to axe over one in three jobs, cut rates of pay for Senior Regional Organizers, and shut down three offices – tantamount to an admission of the bankruptcy of the ‘re-organisation’ carried out little more than a year earlier.

In Scotland the dismissal in July of its Scottish Regional Organiser (RO) has been condemned by the Unite Scottish Regional Committee, three Trades Councils, one of Unite’s Scottish RISCs, the Glasgow/Renfrewshire Unite Area Activists Committee, and three GMB and Unite union branches in Glasgow.

In November the TSSA Scottish Divisional Council passed a motion of no confidence in the TSSA Assistant General Secretary for Scotland, Ireland and the Helpdesk (Lorraine Ward), who had been appointed to the post little more than a year earlier.

Even TSSA’s end-of-year announcement – on Twitter – that it had formed a “groundbreaking” Alternative Business Structure (ABS) with Morrish Solicitors has done nothing to raise morale.

(The Legal Services Act 2007 allows for non-lawyers to own and invest in law firms. The mechanism for doing so is an ABS, in which at least 10% of the ABS is controlled by non-lawyers.)

All reports about the ABS quote Paul Scholey, senior partner at Morrish, as saying: “We have worked with TSSA and the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority for twelve months to establish what we believe is the world’s first union-based ABS.”

But if, as seems likely, the planned ‘outsourcing’ of the TSSA Helpdesk (at a cost of four jobs) is linked to the creation of the ABS, this would suggest that throughout 2013 TSSA was simultaneously:

–  telling its staff that the Helpdesk was to be transformed into an “organizing tool”;

–  engaged in talks about the creation of an ABS in which the Helpdesk would be palmed off to Morrish.

The GMB ballot on strike action against cuts in jobs and pay, the pending Tribunal hearing of the Scottish RO’s unfair dismissal claim, and the questions raised by the announcement of the creation of an ABS would all suggest that the TSSA’s Year of Horror will continue well into 2014.

For further articles about the TSSA, see:






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TSSA: the Basket Case of British Trade Unionism

November 21, 2013 at 12:55 am (Guest post, transport, unions, workers)

Guest post by Merle Stotten

This is the first of a series of articles about the TSSA. Part Two will appear online on Thursday, 28th November.

Part One: Bosses Stay, Workers Go.

On 13th November the TSSA trade union’s senior management team announced an organisational ‘restructuring’ under which over one in three jobs – 22.5 posts out of the current complement of 63.5 – is to be axed.

This plan to slash jobs by over a third was in marked contrast to a statement issued to TSSA staff and members by the union’s General Secretary less than two months earlier, following the collapse of merger talks with Unite:

“Your Executive Committee has agreed to undertake a wide-ranging review … to ensure that we continue to function in a way that safeguards your future. We currently have an ongoing operating deficit, (but) we also have significant assets to ensure that your livelihoods continue to be protected.”

Ironically, one of the reasons for the collapse of the merger talks given by the General Secretary in his statement was that if the merger had gone ahead as envisaged by Unite, then it “would have undoubtedly led to a significant reduction in staff headcount.”

But “a significant reduction in staff headcount” is precisely what lies at the core of the restructuring document. The goal of the planned restructuring is to reduce salary costs from the over 98% of membership income (2012 figure) to around 60% of membership income:

“This is not a reorganisation designed to take advantage of new-found opportunities, merger, diversification, growth, specialisation, integration or any other adjective commonly used to justify organisational change.”

The fact that the document had been produced by a senior management team that could not even tell the difference between a noun and an adjective was the least of its failings.

A GMB newsletter – the GMB is the union recognised by the TSSA for collective bargaining on behalf of its employees – summed up the double standards at the heart of the proposed re-structuring:

“The financial difficulties in which TSSA now finds itself are significantly the result of decisions made by senior management over the last few years. Yet it is other staff who are being made to pay the price for these failures.”

“Higher grades are more likely to be protected, and lower grades more likely to have their jobs cut or relocated.”

“Grades 1-3 have been slashed by nearly 50%, with an additional impact due to changes of location. Grades 4-5 are cut by around a third, with a significant further impact because of location changes. This is in addition to the proposal to downgrade all grade 5 Organiser posts.”

“By comparison, amongst senior grades there is only one proposed post cut, with the new structure having three Assistant General Secretaries for 41 staff and 22,000 members.”

For several years past TSSA has suffered from a growing disconnect between income and expenditure. As the 2012 Annual Report put it: “For well over ten years the TSSA has incurred a series of operating deficits – its membership income was somewhat less than its day-to-day operating costs.”

Somewhat less than??? Read the rest of this entry »

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Cycling Investment: Spokes Autumn Public Meeting – 19 Nov

November 18, 2013 at 11:51 pm (Cycling, Rosie B, transport)

The Scottish Government has announced a welcome increase in cycling investment in the 14/15 draft budget – but funding drops again in 15/16 and in any case is nowhere near enough to meet the government’s own ambition for 10% of all journeys in Scotland to be by bike by 2020…

What is needed for investment in cycling and active travel as a whole in Scotland, and how can we campaign for that?  Find out what’s happening and get your ideas over at our autumn public meeting…

The Panel

Alison Johnstone MSP  –  Co-convener of the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Cycling Group, initiator of the Parliament’s first ever debate on cycling and a Spokes member.    Alison will chair the meeting and hopes to take back to the Parliament ideas and enthusiasms from the meeting.

John Lauder  –  Director of Sustrans Scotland.  John will summarise their current work with Councils and other bodies across Scotland, and what could happen if (or when!) government funding for cycling reaches European levels

Sara Dorman  –  a Pedal on Parliament organiser, Spokes member and a public representative on Edinburgh City Council’s Transport Forum.  Sara will talk from a PoP perspective on the need for greater active travel investment and what it could achieve.

Tom Ballantine  –  Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and board member of Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group.  Tom will outline the SCCS campaign for a doubling of Scottish Government active travel investment from 1% to 2% of the transport budget in 2014/15, rising to 10% by 2020 so that the meeting can discuss what we can all do to push for change
When, Where, What

Date: Tuesday 19 November
Time:  7.30 – open 6.45 for coffee, stall, exhibition and chat
Venue:  Barclay Viewforth Church, Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh

Poster here.

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