Melbourne Taxi Drivers protest at Melbourne Airport

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Uncle Aunty
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May 5 2013 21:10
Melbourne Taxi Drivers protest at Melbourne Airport

any of Melbournians involved with or supporting this?

http://iamunchienandalusia.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/melbourne-taxi-drive...

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Lugius
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May 6 2013 03:17

Not that I know of. In 2006-08 ASF Melbourne were involved in an attempt to organise among taxi and limousine drivers having a member involved in the industry. There is a significant minority of owner-drivers who are members of the Victorian Taxi Association, an industry association and no interest in unions.

http://www.youtube.com/user/EverydayCabbies

Contract drivers (you are required to hold an ABN) for taxis receive 50% of the tariff and are generally provided with a fuel card. Limo drivers get 50% of the job and keep any tips. The hours are long (10 hours would be regarded as a short day).

Most drivers are either students (majority international) or are aspiring owner-drivers. Not a few are family-network type of operations - two brothers splitting day/night is not unusual.

On top of the cost of a vehicle you need to purchase a licence if you want to be an owner-driver. In Victoria its currently about $320,000 for a taxi plate and $65,000 for a limo plate.

Unfortunately, the entire industry is riven with ethnic rivalries and religious prejudices. I would say that roughly a third of taxi drivers are Indian, another third from around the Eastern Mediterranean and the rest you can take your pick. Limo drivers would be 'whiter' on average.

I drove limos as a contractor for a number of different owner-drivers over five years (I spent a lot of time at the airport). I only met two that ever showed any interest in joining the ASF; a super-militant Orthodox-hating atheist from Athens and Maronite who was a member of the Syrian Socialist National Party (he always called me 'comrade'). I'm about to start driving a tour bus.

My own opinion is that the chance of organising a union in the industry is very low for a variety of reasons, the main one being owner-drivers who predominately see themselves as small businesses.

princess mob
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May 6 2013 06:43

If we're talking about the history of taxi drivers organising in Melbourne, (and as I know you're interested in Australian history, Uncle Aunty) it's worth mentioning the blockade of central Melbourne organised by hundreds of taxi drivers in May 2008 after a driver, an international student from India, was stabbed.

There's a 'humerous' article from the right-wing Australian newspaper that explains the sequence of events pretty well.

This article, originally from Mutiny zine, goes into more detail about the issues - the background of racist violence and of international students as workers with a particular labour-market position because of the border regime.

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altemark
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May 6 2013 07:09

Just a little something about the experiences of libertarian taxi organizing in Sweden during the last years. Maybe it can be useful for getting a global view of the conditions of taxi drivers and organizing possibilities. Back in the late 90's/early 00's, SAC organized a taxi drivers' syndicate in Stockholm which was a couple of hundred members strong which successfully organized and won two major battles.

"Eventually, the taxi strike was successful, but at the same time led to some internal controversies." reads a report in the weekly Arbetaren after a SAC congress. New ground is certainly being trodden when a Swedish union starts to organise taxi drivers, often formally self-employed, taking up direct action union tactics and anti-trust laws in order to force three larger taxi companies, the Stockholm municipality, and the Arlanda airport in order to force them to reinstate the principle equal access to the most attractive taxi lanes at Arlanda and Stockholm central


Picture from a 2010 blockade of Arlanda

Many of the taxi drivers earned less money but had to work more hours than someone working a low-qualification menial job, and often beholden to larger taxi centrals. The ones who joined the SAC were often veteran unionists from Iran who were no strangers to doing things like having "rolling blockades", decorating their cars with red/black flags and plumbing up the roads around Arlanda, honking. When they refused to back down when the police tried to intervene, some had to be hospitalized because of police violence.

The syndicate still exists, but is not as strong as during and after the strike, much I think because one of the prominent strike leaders had authoritarian ambitions which went unchecked - he broke away to form his own yellow union. Back in 2009, 500 drivers were ready to heed a SAC call to strike action after a controversial decision to introduce favoritism re: lanes at the Stockholm International Fair

lizT
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May 6 2013 11:12

Hi all,

The 50-50% split has been gone for some time. It has been much closer to 40% (for bailees) (and I never met a bailee driver with a fuel card provided) and 60% for owners for ages. Also much worse than that in the sense of people hiring out cabs on a weekly basis for a lump sum, which they then have to work off - no insurance, car constantly on the road, etc - like the horrible New York system.
When I was involved with the cabbies more heavily (my involvement ceased in probably 2010 I think? I first got involved after the Rajneesh Joga demos), my experience was not that the industry was "riven with ethnic rivalries and religious prejudices" in the sense of this being the barrier to organisation. Yes, some crews of workers were organised on a the basis of nationality. But more so, that was a function of their particular relationship to borders and the living conditions and social worlds dictated by this, as per the explanation of student realities in the Mutiny article. The small crew that I worked with for a bunch of years were Afghan Muslims, Greek commies, Hindu and Sikh Indians and some Somali crew, as well as a couple of older Anglos, some in cabs, some in the fancier limo system. Their divisions were political and over issues to do with work, largely. All sorts of people were on different sides of the argument over whether and how to implement some kind of baseline bailee driver agreement and much of that was determined by economic interests. Of course, the industry is ethnically stratified in terms of migration waves and the reality of temporary visas, but I don't think things are that simple.

The divisions I noted were mostly around the divisions between the owner drivers and the bailee drivers and particularly, the problem of the owner-drivers and the Transport Workers Union. That problem being, the TWU certainly felt that bailee drivers were too much trouble, too unpredictable and frankly, too brown.

The crew I was involved with, in and out of the Victorian Taxi Drivers Association, made a really serious attempt to get the TWU to notice and love them. The TWU (Diana Asmar in particular, before she was trying to be part of the HSU) told them in no uncertain terms that they would only get support if they could sign up, en masse, members at $400 per year. For the international student bailee drivers earning less than $8 per hour, this was pretty shitful. The TWU sent one of their organisers along to a demo (of mostly owner drivers - silly!) to try to convince people to pay up. Others I worked with, in particular the ex-students, were inherently suspicious of the union. They felt, rightly I think, that if they tried to join up with the TWU, the TWU would sell the international students down the river (specifically, that they would negotiate safety increases at the cost of greater co-operation with Immigration and social security raids that were a regular feature at that time, not so sure what happens right now).
More than just the problem of the horrible TWU, they were also negotiating the problem of visibility in relation to their border status: the fact that many of the students were working over 20 hours, working without insurance, working without proper licenses, etc. All of this made it really difficult to think about organising more broadly, even without the TWU. How do you do representative work or organising work when so many are working unlawfully, or at the edges of the law and the conequences for a breach can be deportation?

Many of the student militants were pretty seriously fucked over by the international student changes in 2010 and disappeared from the industry, the composition of which has shifted back again to more white drivers doing the shitty shifts. So, cabbies may not have flocked en masse to the ASF, but they have actively confronted some pretty bloody difficult questions of how one organises while the border is trying to fuck you. They learned a pretty hard lesson too. Princess Mob notes the 2008 demo, but its worth knowing that the next year, the same guys were back, this time as "international students" - same guys, same place, same issue - racist violence. But this time it was posited as a threat to export industry (higher ed) and the government responded by changing the border regime to get rid of these guys. They didn't succeed entirely, but anyone who has been in Melbourne in the past few years should be able to tell you how much less Punjabi is heard on the streets, in the trains and in the cabs of Melbourne.

Anyway - I haven't seen that much of the recent stuff - the older drivers I was in touch with have I think retired, the young student militants have disappeared (don't know if they are here or were deported). But I have seen more vicious crack-downs by security on cabbies refusing short fares when I have been at the airport. Not surprised if that shit has turned unpleasant. More power to them.

Common Struggle
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May 6 2013 16:27

A bloke from the NUW was involved in renewed efforts to help cabbies organise last year I believe.

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Lugius
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May 8 2013 00:21

lizT wrote:

Quote:
students down the river (specifically, that they would negotiate safety increases at the cost of greater co-operation with Immigration and social security raids that were a regular feature at that time, not so sure what happens right now).

Still is. Their favourite ambush location is just after Departure Dr. swings to the right. Many times I saw combined operations by Victoria Police, the VTD, Immigration and Social Security giving them the full programme.

Quote:
organising more broadly, even without the TWU. How do you do representative work or organising work when so many are working unlawfully, or at the edges of the law and the conequences for a breach can be deportation?

Yeah. Tough one. Same goes in the restaurant caper. Needless to say employers know this and they know it works in their favour.

Common Struggle
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May 10 2013 16:58

Should not working around the edge of the law actually work to the advantage of precarious workers and those who are otherwise more economically vulnerable than usual by virtue of the fact that they're not constrained by EBAs and the framework of the UnFair Work Commission?

I would have thought that that fact alone would lend itself immediately to all the creative forms of direct action. The reliance of the direct initiative of the worker at the point of production is supposed to be the great strength of anarcho-syndicalist strategy after all.

Surely being situated at the edge of the law is a concern for liberals and social democrats who still think the bosses laws serve the best interests of workers in the longer term also, not for anarcho-syndicalists for whom capitalist law is the opposite of economic democracy and that which prevents most of us from controlling the conditions of our own lives.

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Lugius
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May 11 2013 04:14


Horselover Fat wrote:

Quote:
Should not working around the edge of the law actually work to the advantage of precarious workers and those who are otherwise more economically vulnerable than usual by virtue of the fact that they're not constrained by EBAs and the framework of the UnFair Work Commission?

How? liz T made the point that if you are on a visa that stipulates that you are not to work, and kick up about not being paid or bad conditions or some such, is it not to the bosses advantage to call immigration to rid themselves of troublesome labour? If you're working in the cash economy to supplement your dole as result of being a single mother pushed off the parenting payment do bring a charge of sexual harassment against the boss knowing it's going to risk your job?

When the boss knows (or correctly guesses) you are working 'illegally', is it not to their advantage much more so than it is to the advantage of the solitary worker?

If EBAs and awards enforced by FWA are so disadvantageous and 'constraining' to workers, why do bosses organisations like the ACCI campaign to get rid of them to be be replaced with AWAs?

Anarchists are revolutionaries not reformists precisely because capitalism can not be reformed. But does that mean that anarchists should oppose all reforms? Of course not. Anarchists will fight to gain and retain those reforms that are clearly advantageous to workers but will not live by them alone. All such reforms will become superfluous in a free and equal society.

Quote:
I would have thought that that fact alone would lend itself immediately to all the creative forms of direct action. The reliance of the direct initiative of the worker at the point of production is supposed to be the great strength of anarcho-syndicalist strategy after all.

You pose a rhetorical question then subsequently refer to it as a fact. I think you are confusing or conflating tactics with strategy. The great strength of anarcho-syndicalist strategy is its two-fold purpose of fighting for the best possible wages and conditions in the here and now while preparing the organisational infrastructure to take direct control of means of production as a first step to creating a free and equal society.

Quote:
Surely being situated at the edge of the law is a concern for liberals and social democrats who still think the bosses laws serve the best interests of workers in the longer term also, not for anarcho-syndicalists for whom capitalist law is the opposite of economic democracy and that which prevents most of us from controlling the conditions of our own lives.

I think acknowledging that the law always works in the bosses favour and being concerned at the consequences of being found guilty by a court or a magistrate of having broken the law are two separate things. There are those for whom being able to master speaking English is critical to understanding of how workplace law works and what their rights are and there are those whose Dad is a partner in a law firm on William St.

Common Struggle
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May 13 2013 04:00
Lugius wrote:
How? liz T made the point that if you are on a visa that stipulates that you are not to work, and kick up about not being paid or bad conditions or some such, is it not to the bosses advantage to call immigration to rid themselves of troublesome labour? If you're working in the cash economy to supplement your dole as result of being a single mother pushed off the parenting payment do bring a charge of sexual harassment against the boss knowing it's going to risk your job?

When the boss knows (or correctly guesses) you are working 'illegally', is it not to their advantage much more so than it is to the advantage of the solitary worker?

Apologies - I posted late and didn't express myself well. From the perspective of legalism your arguments certainly have a point, but from the point of view of being anarchists surely our job is to attempt at least to move beyond reliance on the law.

What I'm trying to put forward is the idea that what tends to be regarded as a weakness from a strictly legalistic point of view can potentially be a strength viewed in other ways. While the situation you describe certainly lends itself to even greater power imbalances, at the same time there's no guarantee of justice _within_ the law, because after all is said and done it's the bosses' law.

I'm inclined to argue that one of the greatest illusions we have inherited from the legacy of laborism that the bosses' law and the bosses' courts can offer meaningful protections to workers writ large, organised or not, over the longer term.

The question I was trying to raise originally in the first place wasn't whether workers who are so marginalised and whose work is so precarious that they have no legal safeguards aren't paradoxically the most free to the extent that they're the least subject to the historical baggage of laboristic paternalism.

I mean, Over 60 percent of the Australian workforce is now casualised and growing, the unions are at the far end of historical decline, and we're more worried about legal safeguards than encouraging worker militancy and solidarity networking?

Lugius wrote:
If EBAs and awards enforced by FWA are so disadvantageous and 'constraining' to workers, why do bosses organisations like the ACCI campaign to get rid of them to be be replaced with AWAs?

Because they're extremist market fundamentalists who reject attempt to restrict their ability to exploit wage labour up to and including the social democratic project to save capitalism from itself by developing an accord between labour and capital.

Lugius wrote:
Anarchists are revolutionaries not reformists precisely because capitalism can not be reformed. But does that mean that anarchists should oppose all reforms? Of course not. Anarchists will fight to gain and retain those reforms that are clearly advantageous to workers but will not live by them alone. All such reforms will become superfluous in a free and equal society.

Agreed. But by the same token reforms need to be carried out within the context of a strategy that retains a basic harmony between means and ends, and reforms need to be fought for with a view to promoting worker self-activity and the capacity of organised workers to understand their own strength as such. If we're to sacrifice that strategy for the sake of being seen to be "doing something" then we might as well give up and join the AWU or the SDA.

Lugius wrote:
I think acknowledging that the law always works in the bosses favour and being concerned at the consequences of being found guilty by a court or a magistrate of having broken the law are two separate things. There are those for whom being able to master speaking English is critical to understanding of how workplace law works and what their rights are and there are those whose Dad is a partner in a law firm on William St.

Can't argue with you there, but what I'm wondering is whether or not the haughty power of the bosses who employ people in the cash economy and who do have the threat of instant dismissal to hold over them can't be challenged effectively the same way it always has been, with concerted solidarity and direct action from an anarchist movement which is united and has its priorities in order because it knows what's at stake.

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Lugius
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May 13 2013 05:29

Wow! I think we are in broad agreement. Anarchists have no faith in the law and understand it for what it is; cobwebs for the rich (Proudhon?) I'm not arguing for reliance on the law, but does using the law to suit an end; having unpaid wages or entitlements paid, for example, make you any less an anarchist?

You wonder about effectively challenging the boss "with concerted solidarity and direct action from an anarchist movement which is united and has its priorities in order because it knows what's at stake" Totally agree. But I would contend lack that which fits the description and therefore one must use whatever one can.

I am tempted to use your last paragraph to segue neatly to a new thread about organising in the cash economy. I would like to refer to an example from history.

In the next day or two when time permits.

Tomas Edn
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Jun 16 2013 11:34

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Jul 24 2013 05:17

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