Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1037/28969
Low pay, long hours, isolation - a taxi driver speaks out
A Bristol taxi driver
I'm writing this because I'm angry. We are constantly told that things are pretty good, or not so bad at least. Everyone from Theresa May and right-wing Labour representatives to the media keep on telling us this.
Anyway, the reality of my life is very different. I don't believe I'm special. I believe that millions of people are in the same boat as me, one way or another.
For the last 28 years, I've worked as a taxi driver. Back when I started it was a bit rough. You'd have to have a "punch up" now and then, because a taxi driver was a target for aggro and muggers.
I have been stabbed twice and had a colleague who was killed. Even so, you could earn a decent living, though it was never true that we were having it "bang off."
Now I'm self-employed, but not part of the middle class. There used to be a vague idea that if you bought your own car you were some kind of step up.
However, especially these days, you soon realise you have to pay for everything yourself - insurance, public liability, service and repairs, and so on.
Then before you've even paid it off, the car's likely to be nearing the end of its life, because of all the mileage we do.
We are workers, but with no employment rights - and we pay our company for the right to work!
Anyway, over the last 20 years, our situation has dramatically worsened. We are in a race to the bottom.
It seems like everybody and their dog is driving taxis these days, and most of the small companies have been swallowed up or shut down. Now it's all corporate work, and us drivers are expendable. If you can't earn your living, tough.
The bosses have used technology to work against us. Uber, Ola and other inventions make our lives harder, and increasingly we feel like an atomised workforce.
Most of us work off an app and just sit in the car waiting for a job in the gig economy. There's no "hello, hello" on the radio any longer. No human voice directing us to jobs.
If you've ridden in an Uber cab, think how the driver can make any money out of the fare - when it's so cheap, and Uber takes 28%. My expenses are £2,000 a month, and that's not unusual.
Our company does a majority of account or contract work rather than cash rides these days. The trouble is, the cut they pay us drivers is the same as 25 years ago!
They keep a bigger and bigger share of what you're earning. So what can I do? Just work longer and longer hours.
At one time, the Trade Union Congress had a campaign for the 35-hour week. Well, today the figures show that, on average, an Uber driver has to work 35 hours a week just to break even, and this is getting worse by the day.
That's 35 hours just to cover your expenses. Then to make any money you just keep racking up the hours. I've known two drivers who fell asleep at the wheel and drove off the motorway.
So now all I do is work, every day, as many hours as I can, to support myself and my partner who isn't able to work.
Yet still I'm falling further and further in debt. If I get ill, I honestly don't know what will become of us.
This is the precarious reality for millions. This is my reality. So we desperately need a proper union, and more than that, a real Labour Party that will stand up and fight to change society - all the way.
Don't let them tell us there's 'no money' for anything positive. I heard on the cab radio that one bloke who was a big Tory Brexiteer has buggered off to reside in Monaco to avoid a seven-figure tax bill, and don't tell me he wasn't fiddling his tax beforehand like all the rich and powerful do.
There's plenty of wealth, it's just that we can't get our hands on it for useful purposes, and to end poverty wages and conditions.
I'm sure that in a socialist society most taxi drivers could do so much more with our lives. Let's get rid of capitalism.
In The Socialist 10 April 2019:
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