For many years the London taxi industry has had a single common denominator that binds every incumbent of the profession, whether it be driver, garage owner, manufacturer, circuit, app or org. Its like creeping ivy around its industrial neck, slowly but surely strangling the life out of the industry.
That common denominator is called division, it's the only element that has been a constant throughout the decades and, perversely, is the only unified aspect of the trade. It's difficult, if not impossible to remember a time when everybody has been singing off of the same hymn sheet.
There doesnt seem to be one specific factor, the divisions that are apparent within the taxi industry can be attributed to many different things, from ego to one-upmanship, from fear to genuine dispute, from hatred to allegiance, you could pick a whole myriad of different reasons and still not get to the root of the problem.
Let’s look at London. There are approximately 24,000 taxi drivers in the capital plus a few thousand people working within the industry who are part of the support network of London's taxi service, it relies on that support network, it cannot function without it. In turn, those business wouldn't survive without the taxi industry, it is a marriage of convenience. Every single one of these individuals has the right to a voice, even if that voice is making an unpopular point with some.
The divisions and tribal splits of any industry are a complex beast, one of the biggest and most abhorrent causes of division is bullying, it is an absolute cancer within any industry and needs surgically removing with the swiftest and sharpest of scalpels.
Anybody that has spent more than five minutes on some of the social media sites that revolve around the taxi trade cannot fail to notice some of the vitriol dipped in acid aimed at other drivers who do not conform or subscribe to a particular point of view, and its usually done in the most cowardly of ways, within a pack.
What these individuals fail to realise is that the more they go on the attack, the more their prey will dig their heels in and recoil against them. Doing it on any public forum just exacerbates the issue because it potentially puts them on view to the whole world to see. Ultimately nothing is achieved except for even more animosity and an even greater divide. The damage being done by these individuals cannot be under-estimated and it is very difficult, if not impossible to undo.
Discussion and heated debate to get a point across is important and can open minds to different views, it's a good thing, much can be achieved. That notwithstanding, those trying to convince another individual that they have the correct view have to accept that others may fundamentally disagree with them. This does not make those disagreeing with a particular point scum or trade killers, as has been witnessed by many on various platforms, from their perspective you are wrong and from your perspective they are wrong, it's called opposing views.
Resorting to attacking an individual because they do not agree with your stance is a sign of human weakness as well as a weak argument. Resorting to hostility negates what may be a valid point, we've all been there.
On many occasions the taxi industry in London has had relatively small splinter groups calling for action, sometimes justifiably so and sometimes unjustifiably, depending on your political view within the industry. On occasion there are good turnouts to these actions and on some occasions they are not so well supported.
These splinter groups are very important to the industry, they highlight aspects of the trade that need addressing which are sometimes missed by the orgs or unions and in some cases can’t be dealt with due to political expediency, therefore these groups do need supporting.
That said, it is unlikely that you will get a several thousand man turn-out for any action that is called by a splinter group, although that's not to say it can't happen. The larger turnouts generally occur when a mainstream org or union calls upon its members to join an action.
Those that haven't taken part in some of the actions have been labelled apathetic, greedy, self-serving, any derogatory adjective you care to mention by drivers who have attended some of the protests. This of course is complete rubbish, usually spouted off out of frustration.
Reasons for drivers not attending these demos or actions are plentiful. The night driver, the part-time driver, the driver who has to be back for the school run, the financially crippled driver, the driver on the half-flat, the driver who isn't working, the driver who lives abroad and finally the driver who is not part of the splinter group calling the action, who has never been balloted over action and has had no say as to whether they even agree to action in the first place, are those taxi drivers fair game, of course not.
Attacking those and other taxi drivers and adopting a holier than thou attitude is an utterly useless and divisive exercise, will anything be achieved by spewing more vitriol, of course it won’t, but it does divide even further.
We then have drivers going into overdrive in relation to everything from the vehicle you drive, the app you use, corporate influences, fake news, lies, damn lies and half-truths, chinese whispers, childish boycotts, what colour underwear you are sporting, how many shredded wheat you eat, the list goes on ad-infinitum. How you work is nobody elses business, those that deem that it is their business to interlope into somebody elses working practices usually end up walking a very short plank into a very deep puddle metaphorically speaking.
Sure, everbody discusses aspects of the industry and some of those discussions get heated as two opposing views collide like two rams butting heads, but once the heat subsides both views must be respected, nobody has that divine right to be right.
The industry as a whole will never be completely united, its a rarity that any industry is. There will always be mitigating factors, meaning that there may only be a hardcore group of drivers, which may number a couple of thousand, that are regularly active in some form or another.
This number can be increased, by talking and in some cases educating drivers. Not every driver is on social media, not every driver is a full time driver, not every driver is interested. Attacking these guys is again divisive, attacking these drivers usually illicits one reponse......and the second word is off. You don't change minds by yelling in somebody's face, that is the road to ruin.
Mike Palmer, York Hackney Carriage driver and active trade representative said “One of the most important things about the struggle in York which resulted in the Gambling, Licensing & Regulatory Committee refusing to renew UBER's PH Operator's licence, was that the York Private Hire Association and York Hackney Carriage Association were liaising regularly because they have a few key people who believe that a cab is a cab, and there are only a few instances where the interests of one aren't beneficial to the other. If you include Station Taxis and the ITA, we cover nearly every driver in the city. “With the dash-cam evidence of both sides of the trade, the ideas, the police reports, the stings, the morale boosting nods and smiles, the meetings with an extra 15 minutes tacked on where the other side of the trade were welcomed by most, and the united front presented to the out of town vehicles on our streets, York showed enough people the truth about Uber to kick them out. “We have information to share, tips to give, ideas to help. Contact me, York PH or HC groups, York cab companies. We're all over this and want you to achieve what we did.”
Each trade stakeholder not only in London, but also the UK has to look at ways of keeping themselves as one tight cohesive unit with several points as a main focus, working together toward a common goal. Swerving off on tangents diminish the industries strength significantly as does the infighting. The industry simply cannot afford to fight internally at this juncture, there is too much going on and diversions are dangerous.
The industry can work together, it must work together, the industry does have a future despite its differences. If the war between drivers can end, and everybody accepts that every driver has their own views, and focus on some of the same common goals seen by all trade representatives across the UK, the industry will have a greater strength in numbers. Keep fighting each other and the taxi trade will split even further apart until it eventually collapses. The industry stands divided, the industry mustn't be allowed to fall.