26 Dec 2010

National Express offers 3.2 percent below inflation

More than 3,750 bus drivers across the West Midlands have been offered a pay rise of just 1.5 per cent – as their company rakes in profits of £80,000 a day. A New Year wage battle is on the cards at Birmingham-based transport giant National Express after the firm tabled the initial offer to Unite the union.
Details of the pay talks emerged just days after it was revealed that the region’s biggest bus operator announced it was on track for a £9 million profits surge this year, pushing up earnings from £20 million for 2009 to £29 million this year.
Unite are seeking a five per cent pay rise across the board, plus improved sickness and pension terms and better conditions for standard rate drivers on lower pay. They want improved workplace terms for many drivers, including harmonising conditions for drivers at Pensnett Garage, where workers are on inferior rates.
Unite regional official John Partridge said: “A meeting to discuss the claim was cancelled last week due to the weather and we will be re-arranging in the New Year, when we will be looking for an improvement."

17 Dec 2010

Protest to free Iranian union leader

Trade unions across the world, including the TUC, are calling for solidarity with Iranian trade union leader Reza Shahabi, who has been on hunger strike since 4 December in protest at his continuing imprisonment.
Reza Shahabi is the treasurer of the independent and unrecognised bus trade union, Sherkat-e Vahed. He was arrested on 12 June 2010, three days after the arrest of Saeed Torabian, the union's spokesperson. Saeed Torabian has since been released but there are six other members of Sherkat-e Vahed (the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company) in prison.
Mansour Ossanloo, the head of the union and his deputy, Ebrahim Maddadi, are already serving prison sentences. All of those arrested must be immediately and unconditionally released. Please join the call on the Iranian authorities to release Reza Shahabi and all the other jailed trade unionists in Iran.
For a model protest letter go to:

Transport strikes shut down Athens

Athens is once again facing serious travel and business disruptions this week as public and private sector unions strike to protest new government austerity. The budget cuts were prescribed by the EU and IMF.
The streets of Athens were jammed with cars on Tuesday as public transit workers staged a 24-hour strike to protest an upcoming vote on further budget cuts in parliament. These strikes were just a prelude to further strikes on Wednesday by workers in air travel, ferries, schools and hospitals. Bank workers, taxi drivers and journalists also planned strikes at different times in the week.
"We'll continue, they can't stop us," bus workers' union head Nikos Kouloumparitsis told Reuters news agency. "This is now a matter of survival, they are cutting our salaries again."
The strikes are to coincide with a vote by parliament to cap monthly salaries at state-owned enterprises at 4,000 euros, and to reduce salaries over 1,800 euros per month by 10 percent. 
Top management was excluded from the legislation (!)

16 Dec 2010

Stagecoach drives profits up 43 percent

Stagecoach has seen its half-year profits rise 43%, driven by higher passenger numbers on both its rail and bus operations, and increased margins. The travel group made a pre-tax profit of £108.7m in the six months to 31 October, up from £75.5m a year earlier.
Revenues at the company increased by 5% to £1.1bn. The company, one of the UK's largest travel firms, also has significant operations in the US and Canada.
Profits at the firm's UK regional bus operations rose 16.5%, while those at its UK rail businesses added 4.4%. Across its North American companies, profits were up 9.7%.

Stagecoach ordered to pay former driver £7,989

Stagecoach Scotland, of Dunkeld Road in Perth, must pay former employee Paul Smith, of Montrose, a total of £7,989 for discrimination and wrongful dismissal.
After a three-day hearing, an employment tribunal in Dundee found by majority that, while Mr Smith had contributed to his own dismissal to a certain extent, he was dismissed unfairly and Stagecoach must pay him £6,989 compensation. The tribunal also found Stagecoach had unlawfully discriminated against Mr Smith on grounds of disability and must pay a further £1,000.

87 percent reject pay offer from Metroline

Bus workers at Metroline in London have voted by 87 percent in an indicative ballot to reject a pay offer. A consultative ballot for industrial action is now set to take place on Friday 17 December. A Unite rep told Socialist Worker, “We are looking for a strike in January if we don’t get a settlement.”
Meanwhile, in an important step forward, Unite has agreed to hold a consultative ballot at Sovereign Buses’ two west London garages to demand the reinstatment of sacked union convenor Abdul Omer. The ballot must be called soon—and backed up by the full weight of the union.

8 Dec 2010

Report from London busworkers' conference

The case of Unite union convenor Abdul Omer, who was sacked by bus company Sovereign, was raised at the London busworkers’ conference last week. The union’s campaign for his reinstatement has stalled and a delegate asked why Unite wasn’t doing more. This got widespread support from other delegates. The chair of the conference agreed to call on Unite officials to write to every London bus convenor updating them on the case. Unite needs to launch a serious campaign win a strike ballot at Sovereign’s two west London garages demanding Abdul’s reinstatement.
The conference also heard from the convenor at the East London Bus Group, which has been taken over by Stagecoach. He told delegates that wages and conditions have been guaranteed for the time being. But any attempt to undermine them in the future would not be accepted.

6 Dec 2010

Stagecoach prepares to swoop on smaller operators

Brian Souter is set to further tighten his grip on the UK’s bus market on the back of buoyant trading for Stagecoach, the transport giant he founded 30 years ago.
The Perth group already handles more than 2.5 million passenger journeys on a daily basis through a network which serves more than 100 towns and cities across the country and it recently splashed out £53 million on a return to the London market.
The Sunday Herald understands that directors are now ready to make use of some £260m of unused debt facilities to snap up smaller rivals which could be especially hard hit by Government moves to cut fuel subsidies and reduce payments for concessionary fares.
Brokers at Deutsche Bank believe the group’s underlying pre-tax profits, due to be announced on Tuesday, may have risen approaching 40% to more than £100m in the first six months of the current year.
However, any significant acquisitions would attract the attention of the UK Competition Commission which is already investigating the bus market and will report preliminary findings next month.

29 Nov 2010

Ballot for strikes in Brighton & Hove

Workers at Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company balloted last Thursday over the company’s latest pay offer. The Unite union has urged its members to reject the offer and asked them whether they are willing to take industrial action. The company is part of the Go-Ahead Group.
One worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, criticised the company’s insistence on buying buses rather than improving on the 2% pay rise offered to workers. He said: "The bus company is buying buses every year when they plead poverty. “They care more for the passengers than the drivers. Passenger numbers increase year on year, fares increase and traffic and stress increase. The bus company verbally praises the drivers but does not back that up."
Another worker said: “The feeling is this isn’t a fair offer, considering this is a very profitable company. There is a feeling they are not willing to negotiate.”
Workers have already voted to reject the 2% pay rise due next month, claiming it will actually amount to a 2.6% pay cut taking into account rises in the cost of living. The new ballot concerns the latest offer which maintains the level of pay rise but also suggests reducing the working week by one hour and recasting holiday rotas. Unite claims none of the concessions will put money in their members’ pockets.

25 Nov 2010

Busworkers join Portuguese general strike

Public services and transport came to a grinding halt in Portugal on Wednesday as the country experienced its biggest strike in 22 years. Two major trade unions called a 24-hour strike to protest against government austerity measures. The strike grounded most flights, closed ports, and stopped subway trains, bus and ferry connections. The unions that called the strike reported 3 million participants, mostly from the public sector.
The government will vote tomorrow on next year's spending plan – including a 5 percent cut from some public sector salaries, a hiring freeze, and a rise in the VAT from 21 to 23 percent.

Coordinated strike by Australian drivers

New South Wales, Australia
Up to 3,000 private bus drivers are set to take part in a prolonged statewide strike in the lead-up to Christmas.
In a dramatic escalation of a long-running industrial dispute, the union representing the state's four largest private bus companies - Veolia, Busways, Premier Illawarra and Comfort Delgro Cabcharge - yesterday gained permission from Fair Work Australia to conduct a vote on industrial action among drivers.
''Drivers will continue to fight until we get a fair deal - it could be weeks, it could be months,'' a Transport Workers Union official, Michael Aird, said. ''We have been negotiating since April, but there doesn't appear to be any agreement.''
The drivers are demanding a 4 per cent rise each year for three years, and enhanced self-defence and occupational health and safety training. They are also angry about a lack of basic facilities such as toilets and eating areas when they are between runs.
Unlike their state government counterparts who are returned to their depots between trips, private bus drivers are often left in sheds without toilet facilities.

24 Nov 2010

London United drivers accept offer

A planned strike by bus drivers at London United in south west London was called off after workers narrowly voted to accept a new pay offer.
Bosses offered 4 percent over two years, but refused to backdate it to April when the pay negotiations should have begun. As a result the deal was rejected and a one-day strike set for Monday of this week.
Bosses then offered a lump sum of £100 on top. This was put to a consultative ballot with the drivers’ Unite union recommending acceptance. Socialist Worker understands that the vote was 483 to accept, but with a large minority of 383 rejecting it.
The threat of action forced the company to improve its offer slightly, but more could have been won if a strike had taken place. The final deal is significantly below inflation.

22 Nov 2010

Unite members elect new leader

Len McCluskey has been elected the next general secretary of Unite, the country's largest trade union.
Just over 15% of the 1.57-million membership voted in the four-way leadership race, which was seen as a battle between McCluskey and Bayliss, his fellow assistant general secretary.
Unite members opted for McCluskey, a former dock worker and centre-left candidate, over Bayliss. Bayliss raised eyebrows on the eve of the TUC conference – at which unions vowed to mount a mass campaign of action to defend public services from government cuts – by declaring that public sector strikes would turn unions into the "bad guys".
McCluskey's victory heralds a leftwing leadership that will be at the forefront of moves to oppose government cuts.
He secured around 101,000 votes, with Jerry Hicks, a popular grassroots leftwing activist, coming in second on 52,000 votes. Bayliss was pushed into third place on 46,000 votes while Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary with responsibility for public services, came fourth, with 39,000 votes.
Derek Simpson, formerly of Amicus, retires as joint leader next month. Tony Woodley, formerly of the T&G, will step down next autumn.

17 Nov 2010

Metroline drivers reject below inflation pay

At Metroline in north London bus workers have massively voted to reject their pay offer. Bosses offered either a £200 lump sum for this year, or £250 this year, followed by a 1 percent pay rise from April 2011. Ballot papers are due to be sent out over the next couple of weeks. Workers should vote for hard hitting action.

London United drivers reject pay offer

Drivers at London United are set to strike for 24 hours on Monday after voting by 525 to 295 to reject a revised pay offer.
The original offer of 1 percent for this year was rejected. Bosses then offered 4 percent over two years, but have refused to backdate this to April when the pay negotiations should have begun. A driver from London United’s Stamford Brook garage told Socialist Worker, “There is a mood for a strike but its needs leadership. The union needs to step up a gear.”
It is believed that the annual end of year bonus has been withdrawn. In the past this has been worth £400. The driver added, “Management announced that there would be no bonus after the rejection of the second offer. They want to use it to blackmail people not to strike.
“We should not let the company drag out the pay talks towards Christmas.” The strike must go ahead unless there are major improvements to the offer. The firm has garages across west and south west London.

CT Plus strike ends

Strikes by drivers at CT Plus in east London have ended. Details are unclear, but it appears workers have not made gains. Bullying and the use of drivers from other routes run by CT Plus’s parent company helped bosses ride out the action. The union has a very determined group at CT Plus. Patient work needs to be done to win over other drivers to join any action in the future.

11 Nov 2010

15-hour-a-day drivers on strike over “stingy” pay

Around 80 drivers working for Gillingham-based bus company Kings Ferry went on strike on Monday for five hours in protest at what union leaders called its “stinginess”.
Unite says the company, part of the National Express group, has refused to consider a £2 per day pay rise for drivers who routinely work 15-hour shifts; and that the company has reneged on an agreement to attend talks at the conciliation service Acas.

Metroline seeks to transfer drivers

Drivers at Metroline’s Holloway garage, in north London, are angry at plans to transfer 13 drivers on the W5 route to the CT Plus firm.
Drivers will be expected to move from Holloway, where some have worked for up to 40 years. One driver told Socialist Worker, “The drivers being moved are being sacrificed to a tendering system that encourages undercutting and treats workers as ‘shuttle slaves’ to be moved around at will.”

Derisory pay offer at Metroline

Workers at Metroline buses in London are set to vote on a derisory pay offer. Bosses have made two pay offers. The first is a £200 lump sum for this year. The second is a £250 lump sum this year, followed by a one percent pay rise from April 2011.
Metroline can afford decent pay rises. Profits at its parent company, ComfortDelGro, rose by 1.6 percent in the three months to June this year. The Unite union is asking its members to reject the offers. If members throw out the bosses’ proposals the union will then move to ballot for a strike.

3 Nov 2010

Further strike days in CT Plus dispute

by Mark L Thomas
Drivers at CT Plus struck again on Friday of last week — and announced more strikes in their dispute over pay in Hackney, east London. New strikes were set for Friday of this week and the following three Fridays.
The last of these will be combined with a strike on Monday 29 November — aimed to coincide with a planned strike on London Underground by the RMT and TSSA unions.
One driver told Socialist Worker, “I think the management here are taking advantage of the crisis in the economy.” Another driver chipped in, “But there’s no recession at CT Plus—business in booming. Just look at their website.”
And another said, “I got a newsletter from the company boasting about how well they’re doing, how profits are up. But we don’t see any of it.” The company has imposed a pay “rise” of around 1 percent. The drivers’ are demanding the RPI rate of inflation plus 2 percent.
The strike faces challenges. The company recruited a lot of new drivers before the dispute and has been using controllers to drive buses. Drivers who work on a separate contract on the Olympics site have also been used to cover CT Plus routes on strike days.
But strikers remain determined. Derrick Campbell, the Unite union branch secretary, told Socialist Worker, “Management were surprised when we told them about the new strike days we’re calling. “They had hoped it was finished.”

2 Nov 2010

Bus driver arrest did not add up

A bus driver arrested for pocketing fares has walked free from court after it was shown she had actually overpaid her bosses.
Catherine Bates, 39, was suspended and faced an eight-month legal wrangle after being accused of stealing £21.60. The case cost £10,000 in legal aid fees but was thrown out by Coventry crown court on the first day of the trial after the error was spotted.
Catherine said, "It's been sheer hell. It was always on my mind - even on my wedding day." She plans to take bus firm Travel de Courcey to an employment tribunal and is considering legal action.

1 Nov 2010

Shares in transport giants rise after spending review

Transport stocks were the main winners from the UK’s comprehensive spending review. Shares rose in the main bus groups after bus operator subsidies were cut by far less than had been feared. The government will cut its rebate on fuel duty by 20 per cent between 2012 and 2015. Expectations had been for a reduction of at least 10 per cent per year, though many thought it could be abolished entirely.
Stagecoach jumped 9.4% on the news, prompting traders to reconsider the possibility of sector consolidation. Shares in Go-Ahead were up 7.7%, FirstGroup rose by 6.4% and National Express rose 4.7%.

29 Oct 2010

Strike call after driver attacked in riot

Newtownabbey, Belfast Metropolitan Area
A vicious attack on a bus driver during the Monday night riots has led to calls for a bus strike in the area. Michael Dornan, representative for UNITE Union spoke about a possible strike after details emerged of the bus hi-jack on Monday evening. He said: “I don’t want to go into a political debate, all I can say is the driver was trailed from the bus and beaten. He has been left with very serious facial injuries — it’s utterly disgraceful.
“We provide an important service to the neighbourhood, but we can not risk our lives in doing so when there is such civil unrest — if the safety of our drivers can not be assured, we have no other option but to call a bus strike.” The bus was burnt out along with several cars hijacked during the night of disorder.
Over 200 youths reportedly gathered in the Rathcoole area to riot — it is thought the disturbance was linked to a number of searches in the area over recent days by officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Historical Enquiries Team.

Fourth strike day at "charity" bus operator

by Mark L Thomas
Drivers at CT Plus at the Ash Grove garage are striking again today - the fourth consecutive Friday they've been out.
The drivers are demanding a pay rise of the RPI inflation rate plus 2 percent. CT Plus is a “social enterprise”, supposedly not run for profit, but it pays some of the lowest rates in London to drivers - while some managers get over £100,000 year!
As Derrick Campbell, Unite branch secretary at Ash Grove, explained to Socialist Worker, “We used to be a charity... But under Labour we saw the encouragement of the “third sector” of charities and voluntary organisations. It was privatisation but with a fluffy coating.”
CT Plus has grown as it has won more contracts that are tendered out by Transport for London. Drivers at some of these contracts are on different rates. CT Plus has the contract for the Olympics site in east London. 
Some drivers from there have been used on strike days to drive buses on the routes normally run out of Ash Grove. Unite needs to take the argument for solidarity to these drivers.
The strikers at CT Plus are determined. For many the strike is as much about how they are treated as about a pay rise. Derrick Campbell said, “Managers called people in one by one last week to get them to accept the 1 percent pay rise they’ve imposed... They try to divide and rule.”
Drivers say they will stay out until Christmas if that’s what it takes. More strike dates are expected to be called soon.

26 Oct 2010

Brian Souter gets richer and richer

Stagecoach tycoon Brian Souter's fortune has soared during the economic downturn - with his "recession-proof" investments now worth £400 million. Mr Souter revealed the value of his fund has rocketed by 41 per cent in just three years.
His family's Souter Investments has a 14 per cent holding in Stagecoach - as well as undisclosed stakes in firms including insurance giant esure and price comparison website gocompare. The portfolio's value has grown from £250 million in 2007 to £400 million today.
Mr Souter - whose joint wealth with Mrs Gloag was put at £610 million in the 2010 Sunday Times Rich List - said: "The reason the value has risen is the type of investments we had were quite recession-proof. Souter Investments also has stakes in bus maker Alexander Dennis, luxury yacht company Sunseeker International and biodiesel firm Argent Energy.

20 Oct 2010

Stagecoach buys East London Bus Group

Transport giant Stagecoach is buying back ELBG - a company it sold four years ago - at a fraction of the cost. It sold its London bus operations to Macquarie Bank in June 2006 for around £264m. ELBG subsequently saw a decline in profitability before going into administration. Now Stagecoach is buying it back for £52.8m.
Proceeds from the sale in 2006 were used to reduce debt at Stagecoach. At the time Macquarie said Stagecoach’s London operations suited its need for assets with a predictable cash flow. But it put ELBG up for sale earlier this year amid a backlash from staff after attempts were made to cut wages in order to shore up falling profits.
What does Stagecoach boss Brian Souter have in mind for workers at ELBG? His plan is to improve the operational performance of the company and to cut its back-office costs through “synergies”. That sounds a lot like job cuts.
ELBG is the third largest operator in London, with 15% of the market. It runs 1,400 buses from ten depots. For the year to April, it generated revenues of £254m - mostly from a fixed-fee contract with TfL.

Managers ‘desperate’ at CT Plus

By Mark L Thomas
Drivers at CT Plus’s Ash Grove garage in Hackney struck again last Friday in their battle for decent pay. It was the second of four planned one-day strikes. More than 30 pickets were outside the Ash Grove garage by 8am.
CT Plus bus drivers are paid some of the lowest rates in London, and many say there is a culture of bullying at the firm.
Some drivers who had crossed the picket line the previous Friday joined the latest strike. Managers have also been driving buses. One picket spotted a senior manager out driving a 388. “He earns between £80,000 and £90,000 a year—he must be desperate,” said the striker.
The dispute at CT Plus underlines the urgent need to return to a fight for a single rate of pay and uniform terms and conditions across all of London’s bus firms. As one driver put it, “We need better pay—the same as other bus companies. “We all do the same job, we all come under Transport for London.”

18 Oct 2010

Strike threat over Blackpool's 'fat' bus drivers

Drivers in Blackpool could strike if two colleagues, suspended for being too fat, are not immediately allowed back behind the wheel. Union bosses will hold crunch talks with Blackpool Transport management on Monday – amid a stark warning from the union.
The Unite Union today said if the drivers were not allowed back to work its 400 members, who work for the bus and tram operator, will ballot on whether to take industrial action. That could be up to and including strikes.
As The Gazette exclusively revealed earlier this week, anger is mounting over the decision to suspend the two bus drivers. Unions say the two men were told they had to lose 7lbs in the next four weeks or face suspension without pay.
John Boughton, Unite regional organiser said: "We are hoping to resolve this sensitive matter when we have the meeting with management on Monday. We will be asking for the two drivers to be reinstated immediately."

15 Oct 2010

Drivers to blame for accidents? It’s the pursuit of profit that’s deadly

Manila, Phillipines
When a bus plunged into a ravine in Benguet province in August, killing 42 people, its bus driver was immediately blamed even in the absence of an investigation. In that accident — and even in one the same month in Bicol where a beauty queen died and last year in Metro Manila where a young girl was killed – bus drivers were immediately accused of being drug addicts, reckless and unruly.
It is an accusation that doesn’t sit well with Sandy Hachoso, 40, a bus conductor who is also president of the Kabisig Bus Transport Workers Alliance, based in Manila.
It is convenient for the government to quickly pin the blame on drivers, Hachoso said, but real solutions to problems concerning transport safety would continue to elude the country if the government persists in demonizing the drivers while the sector remains “too deregulated,” He said President Aquino, who earlier called for a review of the factors causing these accidents, had ignored a “very vital issue” that affects the safety concerns of the industry: the working condition of the drivers.

Overworked milk cows 
Because of the largely privatized system of running the country’s public transport, especially the relatively more capital-intensive bus sector, bus operators are given much leeway in how they treat their drivers, conductors and mechanics. Based on practices in their sector, Hachoso said, “it would seem like the public transport sector is not covered by the Labor Code.”
A bus driver and conductor in Metro Manila usually work 18 to 20 hours on an average working day, for four to five days a week. “Because of low commissions, they are obliged to increase the number of their trips to increase their take-home pay,” Hachoso said.
It is the high stress of a very long working day and the chase for that pitiful commission that trigger competition among bus drivers and conductors for passengers. That they are forced to do so is the main reason why accidents happen, explained Hachoso.

Research on fatigue 
In a June 2008 report on The Journal Of Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, John D. Lee pored through 50 years of safety driving research and said at one point that “Fatigue represents a less prominent safety problem that may be under-reported because, unlike with alcohol, no forensic test can measure its presence.”
Smartmotorist.com cited a study by National Central University in Jhongli, Tatung University, Taiwan that “driving for just 80 minutes without a break can make motorists a danger on the roads.” They found that “drivers who do not take frequent rest stops have slower reactions than those who break up long journeys.”
It also cited recent international research suggesting that “driver fatigue is underrepresented in accident statistics, and some estimates show that it could be a contributing factor in twenty to twenty four percent of fatal crashes.”
To improve road safety, Hachoso urged the government to look deeply into the plight and working conditions of bus drivers and conductors and to consider the deregulation of public transport industry in the Philippines. The government “has given capitalists too much freedom to manage and profit from servicing public transport needs. The result is that the quality of this public service has suffered, causing hundreds of deaths in road accidents that could have been avoided.”

13 Oct 2010

Drivers at Stagecoach Merseyside accept offer

Bus drivers at Stagecoach Merseyside have voted to accept a pay offer of 3.1 percent for this year, 2 percent for next year and £150 back pay.
Workers struck for four days in August after being offered 2 percent for this year. Further strikes were suspended when new, worse offers were tabled. Momentum was lost but a large minority of 80 out of around 300 still voted to reject the deal.

Report from CT Plus picket line

Dozens of bus drivers at CT Plus in Hackney, east London, picketed their depot on Friday of last week over pay. Drivers in passing cars and buses from other companies expressed their support for the pickets. The drivers, who are in the Unite union, have been given a paltry 1 percent pay rise. They are demanding the RPI rate of inflation, currently running at 4.7 percent, plus 2 percent.
CT Plus is a “social enterprise” where profits are meant to be reinvested for a social purpose. David Cameron wants more social enterprises running public services as part of his “Big Society”.
However, this employer is no friend of workers. The website of the HCT group— CT Plus’s parent company—boasts about a turnover of £23.3 million last year. But workers at CT Plus remain some of the lowest paid drivers in London.
As one explained, “They’re making lots of money and winning new contracts for bus routes. We need to see a bit of it too.” Drivers get nothing extra for working weekends. “You might be getting up at 3am on a Sunday to work but it’s just the normal rate,” said a driver. “In fact, because Sunday’s a shorter shift than a normal day, you earn less.”
Derrick Campbell, the Unite union rep for Ash Grove depot, told Socialist Worker, “Profits are up, but the average salary rate has gone down. Management are trying to divide and rule.”
Despite refusing to make a decent pay offer, bosses are offering £30 a day extra to drivers to work during strikes and a £150 bonus for anyone who works over all four strikes. “Our strike ballot mandate means we can call more action after the days already planned,” said Derrick.

11 Oct 2010

"30 pieces of silver" fails to break Hackney strike

Four-hour strikes across East London will go ahead after an offer of "30 pieces of silver" was rejected by drivers. Last Friday 185 employees at CT Plus walked out over pay. Two more strikes are scheduled for the following Fridays. 
Regional secretary Steve Hart said the company has been offering money to workers to break the strike. He claims CT Plus has been paying an extra £270 for every worker who crosses the picket line. He added "This is money that could go a long way towards settling the dispute... [CT Plus's profits] come from the public purse. Our members will not be fooled by these 30 pieces of silver."

8 Oct 2010

Hackney bus workers walk out over pay

Bus workers in Hackney began a 24-hour strike this morning in a row over pay. The Unite union said 185 employees at CT Plus based at the Ash Grove Depot walked out at 4am this morning. Union members want mayor Boris Johnson to meet with them to discuss better wages. They are threatening to repeat the walkout for the next three Fridays.

6 Oct 2010

Merseyside strike called off - again!

A planned strike by bus workers at Stagecoach Merseyside was called off on Friday of last week, after management offered a new pay deal.
Workers were voting on the deal as Socialist Worker went to press. The new offer is 5.1 percent over two years, with some of the money backdated. Yet this is only 0.1 percent more than the original offer—which was lowered to 4 percent on the eve of an earlier planned strike.
The deal also contains promises to resolve issues over workplace harassment. Unite union reps report that this increased during the dispute and become a key issue.
Workers should reject the new offer and return to strikes. Management can’t get away with making last minute “offers”—in some cases even worse than the original—to get action suspended. The best way to beat bullying is to show that workers won’t be pushed around.

4 Oct 2010

Rapid victory for all-out strike in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Road Transport Workers' Federation called off an indefinite strike today just hours after it began - as the local administration caved in, and promised to meet their demands.
The strike started at 6am today in all sixteen northern districts. But by 1.30pm the drivers were back at work. The demands include withdrawal of 'false' cases filed against transport workers, the unconditional release of transport workers, and the end of extortion on the highways and 'harassment' of transport workers by law enforcers.

29 Sep 2010

Stagecoach Merseyside drivers reject offer

Bus workers at Stagecoach Merseyside in Liverpool were set to strike on Friday of this week after rejecting a new pay offer that was worse than the previous deal. They held a strongly supported three-day strike last month against a below-inflation pay offer of 2.5 percent for the next two years.
They called off a planned strike on Monday of last week to discuss a new offer that was just 4 percent over two years. Workers rejected this in a workplace consultative ballot following a meeting of over a hundred drivers. Drivers report managers taking a hard line over overtime, swapping shifts and days off as they try and put pressure on workers. 
It’s likely that more action will be needed after Friday. Unite should launch a levy to provide financial support to drivers to help them take hard-hitting action that can win.

Sovereign workers accept pay offer

Workers at Sovereign bus company’s garages in west London have voted to accept a below-inflation pay offer. They rejected an original 1.3 percent offer but accepted it when management made some concessions.
This poor deal comes after the sacking of Sovereign’s Unite convenor, Abdul Omer. Unite must act quickly on the promised ballot for strike action to demand Abdul’s reinstatement.

Strike ballot at London United

Bus workers at London United in west London are taking part in a ballot for strike action this week after rejecting a 1 percent pay offer.

28 Sep 2010

Driver dismissed over faulty brakes loses tribunal

A Stagecoach driver sacked for driving a bus in wintry weather with brakes he claimed were “dangerously” faulty has lost his unfair dismissal claim. Ray Stubbs, 53, of Bridge of Isla Croft, Rothiemay, near Huntly lost his job after allegedly failing to notify his employers until after he completed his morning shift that his vehicle veered to the right when he braked.
He took his employers to an industrial tribunal, but lost yesterday after the panel found favour with Stagecoach, saying Mr Stubbs should have stopped the bus and radioed for assistance, or at least reported the suspected fault later. He continued to drive, picking up passengers along the Inverurie to Aberdeen route on February 3 this year.
Mr Stubbs, who represented himself, said he would not have picked up passengers along the route if the fault happened again, but it occurred only once. His closing submission stated: “I was summarily dismissed by Stagecoach for an offence which I could not possibly have committed, given that they dismissed me for ‘driving a vehicle with defect brakes’, yet just over two hours later they themselves declared the bus fit for use, and the brakes not to be defective." 
The panel said Mr Stubbs believed the brakes to be defective so should not have continued to drive the bus. Mr Stubbs said he expected the decision, and claimed he had been dismissed because he “was making waves all the time about the safety of the buses”.

23 Sep 2010

Stagecoach Merseyside strike suspended

Drivers at Stagecoach Merseyside in Liverpool suspended a planned one-day strike on Monday of this week to discuss a revised pay offer. Workers were set to vote on the new offer this week, which they called derisory.

21 Sep 2010

Busworkers carved out by subcontractor

The RMT union yesterday slammed the treatment of a group of members working for First Devon and Cornwall buses on a sub-contract from National Express. They have effectively been sacked following the re-award of the contract to a different company – Parks of Hamilton – who are refusing to abide by their obligations under the TUPE regulations to re-engage the existing staff. The union is preparing a ballot for industrial action over the issue.

20 Sep 2010

Veolia strike enters second week

Maryland, USA
Prince George's County bus drivers plan to continue their strike for the seventh day today. A five-hour negotiating session Friday ended in gridlock. "Negotiations didn't go well at all," said Howard Marshall, business agent for the bus drivers union. "But we aren't ending the strike. [Drivers] know that without job security they are always going to be tap-danced on."
The roughly 150 contracted drivers on strike, employed by Veolia Transportation, say they want more job security, better health insurance, higher wages and lunch breaks.
Drivers also charge that the company's disciplinary system is too harsh. "Progressive discipline is rarely used," said driver Kathleen LaFortune. "They just go from suspension to termination - for the littlest things, like running a yellow light."
Since the strike began, roughly five of 26 routes have been operating full service. The rest are scheduled for limited service or no service.

17 Sep 2010

London drivers demonstrate against cuts

More than 200 bus workers demonstrated outside London's City Hall on Wednesday over Mayor Boris Johnson's attacks on London's bus service. The Unite union called the protest, and members of the union from other workplaces joined it. These included cleaners, who led the protest with drums and whistles, and porters from Billingsgate fish market – who are also under attack.
Alan, a driver for First Bus Group at Leyton depot, told Socialist Worker, "I'm close to retirement, but I can't stand by and watch as jobs and services for the next generation are destroyed. Different bus companies compete for bus routes – the cheaper the tender the more likely they are to get it. That means when drivers are transferred our pay drops – £60 or £70 at least. That's a race to the bottom – we think wages should be levelled up not down."
A driver from London General's Stockwell depot said his management were looking to cut costs everywhere. "Our breaks are watched. We don't get any rest days. We need investment in the buses not cuts. This service is used by the workers of London, how can we survive without it?"
"Johnson has already cut our service," said Steve Hart, Unite regional organiser. "Now his Eton mate David Cameron is going to come for millions more."
Service users group Campaign for Better Transport brought solidarity greetings to the protest and Dot Gibson from the National Pensioners Convention spoke about the importance of free public transport for the elderly.

16 Sep 2010

Veolia drivers strike for better conditions

Maryland, USA
Drivers for TheBus public transit system in Prince George's County are continuing their strike into a third day. They say they won't return to work until their demands are met.
Union members of the Teamsters' Local 639 say they're striking for better job security, improved health insurance, higher wages and changes in the disciplinary policy. They say cameras that were installed on the buses in 2006 catch what they call "minor infractions" and discipline them unfairly.
But officials for Veolia Transportation - the company that operates TheBus - say the cameras have helped improve safety and driver performance. The strike has severely limited service on 19 routes. Four routes have no service at all.

15 Sep 2010

Drivers at Stagecoach Merseyside to strike next week

By Fran Byron-Chance
Bus drivers working for Stagecoach Merseyside plan to hold a one-day strike on Monday of next week. The action will follow a solid four-day strike by the 350 Unite union members at the end of last month.
Engineers at the site have also begun a ballot—and hope to co-ordinate action with drivers in the future. The drivers are fighting over pay. Bosses are trying to get away with paying drivers a 2 percent pay rise—despite the fact that the company made £126 million last year. Some 81 percent of drivers rejected the offer.
Although the issue of pay sparked the dispute in Merseyside, workers are sick of what they describe as a bullying culture at the firm. The union should name more strike dates now.

14 Sep 2010

Save Our Buses - lobby Boris Johnson

Lobby called by Unite the Union, 
Assemble Wednesday 15 September, 9:30am
Speakers include Ken Livingstone

Transport for London Commissioner, Peter Hendy speaks proudly of the £5 billion cuts package that he is already implementing even before the Government’s demand for 25-40% cuts in the Department for Transport’s budget.
Rocketing fares and reduced mileage will mean a return to the bad old days of clapped out, over crowded buses, reaching less of the city, disappearing from outer London– and driven by low paid drivers.
Busworkers are already facing wage freezes, attacks on conditions, company sell-offs, forced transfers from one garage to another. These planned cuts will accelerate the pace of decline - hundreds, possibly thousands of jobs could be on the line.
Bus trips account for half of all public transport journeys in London, yet the industry receives a fraction of the public subsidy handed to rail. Unite will be calling on Mayor Boris Johnson, who once described London’s bus drivers as “the world’s finest”, to put his money where his mouth is.

Drivers protest in Byfleet

A day of protests outside Byfleet bus station is taking place today. Bus drivers are demonstrating against their management company Abellio for a number of reasons.
Firstly - they're angry after a number of dismissals in the last few months. We understand 7 drivers were sacked for alleged irregularities with ticketing. The drivers say their colleagues were dismissed unfairly, and without a proper disciplinary hearing, or the right to cross examine the witnesses.
The drivers are also dismayed with their working environment - They say their depot in Byfleet is not fit for purpose - and they say the buses are run down too. They're claiming the money that is made in Surrey is pumped away and invested into services in London.
Passengers are being reassured that this is not a strike - and their services should remain unaffected. However, union members have not ruled out strike action in the future.

27 Aug 2010

Stagecoach drivers start four day strike

Hundreds of Merseyside bus drivers have voted to strike during one of Liverpool’s busiest weekends. The walkout over pay is threatening to hit one in five of the city’s buses during the Mathew Street Festival.  
Stagecoach drivers have announced a four-day walkout. The company employs more than 360 drivers, most of whom are members of the union Unite, which is orchestrating the action. They will stop working today and will not return until Tuesday next week.  
Stagecoach plans to draft in more than 100 extra drivers and vehicles to handle the fallout. The dispute erupted over a pay increase. Stagecoach offered 2%, but the drivers are understood to have demanded 3%.

18 Aug 2010

Metroline pay freeze rejected

Workers at Metroline bus company in north London have rejected a pay freeze. In a consultative ballot last Friday workers voted against the pay deal by 1458 votes to 32 - a 98 percent rejection. The workers’ Unite union should move immediately to sanction a ballot for hard hitting strikes.

17 Aug 2010

Strike epidemic in South Africa

Gauteng province, South Africa
Gautrain bus drivers embarked on an illegal strike today, related to wage demands – joining public servants and automotive industry workers who have already downed tools earlier this month. The Gautrain operator, Bombela, said “The strike came without notice and in spite of an industry-wide wage agreement established earlier this year.”
The province experienced another wildcat strike by drivers last week, at Tshwane.

16 Aug 2010

Drivers take on corrupt management

Tshwane, South Africa
About 114 of the city's 285 bus drivers went on strike last Wednesday, halting the bus service, and reducing it to operations of only 58 percent on Thursday.
The Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) spokesman Vincent Vena said the strike emanated from allegations of corruption against managers in the department of transport and that no action had been taken against them.
He confirmed the strike was illegal and said it was caused by the "frustration" of workers.
National spokesman for Samwu, Tahir Sema, said the issue of corruption had been ongoing and the unions had raised it with managers numerous times. "Workers are taking the issue of corruption very seriously. Unions have exhausted every avenue [to get this] issue sorted... but to no avail".

12 Aug 2010

Possible buyers for East London Bus Group

We're still not sure who is going to buy ELBG from Macquarie, but for a lot of (informed) speculation, take a look at this forum:

11 Aug 2010

Reject pay freeze at Metroline Bus

Bus workers at Metroline in north and north west London were set to vote on a pay freeze on Friday of this week.
The pay freeze “offer” also includes an attack on the safe driving bonus workers receive annually if they have no “blameworthy” accidents during the preceding year. The consultative ballot takes place across all Metroline garages. If workers reject the deal, the Unite union should organise an immediate ballot for hard hitting strike action.

Drive for unity at Holloway bus garage

Bus drivers in Holloway, north London, held a Ramadan celebration on Friday of last week.
Unite union rep Paul Brandon said “It is a completely self-organised initiative from the drivers. “There is a large Muslim community at the garage who are keen to promote understanding of Islam to their non-Muslim colleagues. “The success of the event shows how we can find new ways to tackle those who wish to divide through ignorance and hate.”

9 Aug 2010

Hong Kong: coordinated action across four companies

Drivers at four bus companies will strike and protest for higher pay today. The action involves drivers from New World First Bus, Citybus, KMB and Long Win Bus.
"We are forced by the company, which generated HK$680 million in profit last year, to express discontent at the unreasonable salary rise," said KMB Union chairman Kwok Wai-kwong. The company offered a 1.8 percent pay rise and the unions asked for 2.2 percent, plus an extra month's bonus. 
Twenty Kowloon Motor Bus drivers began a sit-in outside the company's head office in Cheung Sha Wan yesterday to press their demands. Other KMB drivers said they will show their solidarity by spending 10 to 15 seconds at all bus stops for all 280 routes today. Kwok estimates this will increase a one-hour ride by 10 minutes.
At New World First Bus, about half of the 1,600 drivers will hold a one-day strike and stage a sit-in at its bus depot headquarters. 
Meanwhile, about 500 Citybus drivers will work to rule - driving on the left-hand side of the road and not overtaking any vehicles.

Essex strike suspended

The strike in north Essex has been called off by union bosses. The Unite union had called on its First East England drivers based at Colchester, Clacton, Harwich, Braintree and Chelmsford to strike today. But following a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Unite agreed to suspend the action, with further talks set to take place over the next few weeks.

4 Aug 2010

Bus workers in Essex take action

Drivers and engineers at First Bus in Essex are set to strike on Monday of next week. Drivers at depots in Colchester, Clacton, Harwich, Braintree and Chelmsford and elsewhere will strike over terms and conditions.
Engineers will take strike action at the same time over pay. First Bus drivers in Essex struck at the end of last year over pay.
The workers’ Unite union has raised concerns about terms and conditions for existing and new staff that were not included within the agreement that ended the pay dispute.

30 Jul 2010

Con-Dems take axe to transport spending

The Con-Dem government’s cuts could hit the bus industry hard. Transport faces 25 percent cuts in the 20 October spending review. It’s possible up to 40 percent of its £20 billion budget will go.
A key government subsidy to the bus industry is the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG), which is a rebate on 80 percent of the duty (tax) on fuel bus operators buy. It may be frozen, phased out or abolished completely as part of the transport cuts. In 2009-10 BSOG was worth £454 million to the bus industry.
Buses are the most used form of public transport. The poor and elderly are particularly dependent on them. They are most heavily used by households with incomes under £10,000.
Despite this, other industries get far greater subsidies. For example aviation gets 100 percent fuel duty rebate, worth £6.5 billion a year!
Cuts to BSOG will be used by the operators to justify cuts to services and jobs, and increases in fares. Rural services, weekend services and late night running could be hardest hit.
Subsidies themselves make a mockery of privatisation. The bus operators make fat profits while receiving hand outs from the tax payer.
Lib-Dem transport minister Norman Baker recently criticised the huge profits made by the “big five” operators – Arriva, First Group, Stagecoach, National Express and Go-Ahead. He admitted that the cost of bus travel had risen by 24 percent since de-regulation in 1987.
But the danger is that cuts to BSOG are passed on by the operators in the shape of lost jobs, worse services, higher fares and wage freezes. Unite has to organise resistance to such moves.
If Baker really wanted to deal with the bus operators subsidised profits then he should take bus services back into public hands. If governments can nationalise banks why can’t we have a publicly owned bus service run for need and not for profit.

29 Jul 2010

Drivers turn on cop who shot colleague

Akonwonjo, Nigeria
There was pandemonium in the Akonwonjo area of Lagos State following the murder of a bus driver. Mr. Kareem, in his late 20s, was allegedly shot dead about 3.15pm on Tuesday by a trigger-happy policeman, for refusing to pay a bribe of 50 Naira (about 20p).
Other commercial buses and tricycles were giving the policemen the bribe each time they passed by. Mr. Kazeem was said to have complained about the endless extortion by the policemen and when he was stopped he refused to pay the money.
As he was driving off with the passengers in his bus, the policeman was said to have corked his gun and shot him. The bullet hit him on the head and he died instantly.
The shooting led to a protest in the area. Bus drivers and residents took to the streets and attacked the police patrol van. The police took to their heels, but the officer who allegedly shot the driver was apprehended by the crowd.
They dragged him on the ground and used broken bottles and a machete on him. He was later rescued by the Rapid Response Squad (RRS). The crowd, however, were not deterred by their presence as they went wild, destroying everything belonging to the police, while others chased any policeman they saw.
A similar incident happened barely two weeks ago at Ishashi, when a policeman allegedly shot dead a commercial motorcycle rider over his refusal to give the policeman a bribe of N20. The commercial motorcycle riders in the area took to the streets and protested the death of their colleague.

For more details, see the link below. The comments thread is fascinating.

28 Jul 2010

Savage cuts loom for bus industry

The government looks set to slash subsidies to the bus industry, leading to severe cuts in services and jobs. The Bus Service Operators Grant gives bus firms a rebate on fuel duty. Last year it was worth £454 million. 
Many bus workers already face pay freezes or below inflation pay offers. A fightback over pay is the best way to prepare to resist the savage cuts that are in the pipeline.

26 Jul 2010

Stagecoach forced to sell operations in Preston

Stagecoach will sell some its Preston Bus operations, but will be offering a smaller part of its business in the city than previously planned.
Stagecoach had gone to the Competition Appeals Tribunal to protest that the Competition Commission’s ruling that it sell Preston Bus was wrong. 
The Tribunal ruled in May that a number of the Commission’s findings were not supported by the evidence in the case.
Since then Stagecoach has been in discussions with the Competition Commission – the outcome of which is  a slightly reduced divestment package.

23 Jul 2010

Abdul Omer - official Unite appeal

Abdul Omer Mohsin, Unite union convenor for London Sovereign buses, has been victimised for his trade union activities. Unite is about to ballot its members at London Sovereign for industrial action in his support. Abdul Omer is suffering severe financial hardship due to his victimisation.
On our leaflets page, we are posting an official request for financial support that has been sent to Unite’s London bus branches - it can also be used to inform debate on the issue at your branch meeting. Please raise this issue as a matter of urgency at your next branch meeting/branch committee/regional meeting.

21 Jul 2010

Sovereign drivers fight over pay and union convenor

Drivers at Sovereign Bus company in west London have hit back against attacks on their pay and union organisation.
Drivers voted last Friday in a consultative ballot to reject the company’s pay offer of 1.3 percent. The Harrow garage voted 71 to five against the deal, while at Edgware the vote was 80 to 18 to reject. Unless Sovereign significantly improves its offer, a ballot for strike action should be held.
A mass meeting on Friday of last week also voted unanimously to demand reinstatement of sacked union convenor Abdul Omar and called on the drivers’ Unite union to hold a strike ballot. Socialist Worker understands that Unite has now authorised this. Activists should campaign for the biggest possible yes vote when this takes place.

19 Jul 2010

Sovereign pay ballot

Drivers at Sovereign buses, west London, are to vote on a pay offer of 1.3 percent. The below inflation deal contains worrying features. Last year it was agreed with management that after four years of service drivers would receive a bonus. This has not been included in this pay offer. An agreement to harmonise hours and duties would have resulted in a pay boost of 2‑3 percent. There is no mention of this in the pay deal.

14 Jul 2010

Strike to reclaim union office

Chittagong, Bangladesh
The Bangladesh Road Transport Labour Federation announced a two day transport strike next week in Chittagong. The strike has been called in support of 15 demands including stopping the extortion and ‘requisition business’ of the police, building a new bus terminal, and stopping the activities of unregistered bus owners and labour organisations.
The key demand is that the office of the union at Fatikchhari be returned to them after it was seized by followers of the governing party in January 2009.

Paraguayan drivers win pay rise

Asunción, Paraguay
Bus drivers in the capital won a 7% pay rise from the government this week, after they threatened to strike for four consecutive days. Initially the unions had demanded 10%, and the government had offered 5%. But the threat of action, coordinated across several unions, was enough to force the concession.

6 Jul 2010

Greek drivers strike for survival

Bus services in Athens were shut down for eight hours last Thursday as employees of OASA - the state-controlled transport organisation - walked off the job because they had not been paid their salaries for June.
The wildcat strike highlighted the growing tensions within the workforce as the Greek government tries to push through savage attacks on public services and working conditions.
A return to work was agreed after employees were assured the finance ministry had arranged a bank transfer to cover the unpaid salaries. However, OASA has still not paid social security contributions for the past two months.

30 Jun 2010

Canberra's drivers threaten more strike action

A winter of discontent looms for Canberra's commuters as ACTION drivers vowed to continue the industrial campaign which saw services cancelled last Friday.
650 bus drivers took the strike action after talks on their new agreement with the Government-owned bus operator broke down over the fraught issue of management's demands for a 60/40 ratio of full-time and part-time drivers.

24 Jun 2010

Dominance of the “big five” revealed

The dominance of the big five transport companies in the bus industry has been exposed in a report commissioned by the government.
It found the big five – First, Go Ahead, Arriva, Stagecoach and National Express – generated 72% of total revenues among bus companies in England in 2008.
It also discovered these five firms had a far greater operating profit margin than other bus companies, and that their operating profit margins from buses were higher than from other sectors in which they were involved. The report was compiled by LEK Consulting for the Department for Transport.

Arriva swallowed by Deutsche Bahn

Last week Arriva share holders voted to accept a take over bid from German railway operator Deutsche Bahn. The vote was 85% in favour, at £7.75 a share. This amounts to a total of £1.59bn.
Arriva had become the third largest bus operator in the UK, after First Group and Stagecoach. Now it has been swallowed by an even bigger beast.
Deutsche Bahn has over 500 subsidiaries. It describes itself as the second-largest transport company in the world. It is the largest railway operator and infrastructure owner in Europe, and it carries about two billion passengers each year.
There’s a strong possibility of other takeovers in the UK bus industry at the moment, with National Express the most likely target. Last year both First Group and Stagecoach tried to acquire it.

22 Jun 2010

Transport bosses meet to plan cuts

As the Con-Dems unleash their savage cuts in today's budget, transport bosses are planning to meet to pass on the pain to transport workers and the communities they serve.
On 20 July transport bosses and a host of consultants will gather at The Future for Local Transport Delivery Conference in London. It will host "a discussion on ways of reshaping service delivery to make every single pound go further”.
The website promises “delegates will have the opportunity to quiz experts and share experiences on overcoming the obstacles to achieving greater efficiencies.” 
It seems that foremost among these obstacles are workers, and union organisation – it is no accident that the conference is sponsored by Bircham Dyson Bell. This is the anti-union legal firm that brought the case against Unite at Metrobus. Their legal challenge to a bus workers’ strike ballot was used to de-rail that year’s pay campaign in London. It happened as up to 14,000 drivers were due to take action in October 2008. Since then attacks on the right to strike have intensified – most obviously at British Airways.

15 Jun 2010

Unofficial strike hits World Cup

Hundreds of football fans were stranded in Johannesburg on Monday after the Netherlands-Denmark game when bus drivers went on impromptu strike. Drivers were complaining they were not given sufficient warning that they would be expected to work longer hours during the tournament.
This strike is one of several labour incidents that have come during the World Cup when unions have tried to squeeze concessions out of the government which had been hoping the event would increase national unity.

10 Jun 2010

Souter goes from buses to luxury yachts

Notorious Stagecoach boss Brian Souter has paid £9.5 million to become the major shareholder in a company that makes yachts for the super rich. Sunseeker International has been hand-crafting boats for millionaires for 40 years. 

East London Bus Group for sale

Australian investment bank Macquarie has put East London Bus Group up for sale. The bank bought the business from Stagecoach in 2006.
Macquarie is Australia's largest bank, and has been buying and selling large parts of the UK's infrastructure over the past decade. These deals include £8bn paid by a consortium for Britain's biggest water company, Thames, in 2006 and £790m paid for National Car Parks (NCP) in 2007.

3 Jun 2010

General transport strike paralyses Athens

Greek journalists and public transport workers have walked off the job in 24-hour strikes to protest social security reforms that are part of an austerity package.
No news programs will be broadcast on Greek television or radio today, while the content of news websites was not being updated since the strike began at 6 a.m. local time (0300 GMT). Friday's newspapers also will not be printed.
Bus, subway and tram workers also walked off the job, leaving Athens with no public transport for the day. Greek workers have been angered by the government's austerity plan, which cuts pensions and salaries for civil servants, and abolishes early retirement for many sectors.

First Bus drivers to walk out in Scotland

Central Borders, SE Scotland
Bus services could come to a standstill on Monday unless First bosses can reach a pay deal with drivers. Borders drivers want a nine percent wage increase to bring them into line with other operators in First Bus’s east of Scotland division. But managers had been offering only 2.5 percent and the 100 or so drivers look set to strike on Monday, with further stoppages planned for Friday June 18 and Monday June 21. An overtime ban is also planned for Tuesday.
Yesterday union negotiators were taking a new, undisclosed offer to members but as The Southern went to press the industrial action was still due to go ahead. Unite regional industrial organiser, Sandy Smart said: “What we are looking for is parity with other parts of the company – but the company is arguing it is not prepared to give that. It has caused quite a bit of resentment and anger. “Drivers get paid 75p an hour less than the guy in the same uniform doing the same job up the road in Edinburgh.”

Unite conference debates anti-union laws

Resistance to cuts and attacks on jobs and services ran through the Unite policy conference in Manchester this week.Delegates took part in a passionate debate on the anti-union laws on Tuesday afternoon.
They backed a composite of motions arguing for a repeal of the anti-union laws and replacing them with a framework giving more rights and freedom to trade unions.
Nigel Gawthrope from London and Eastern region moved the composite. He pointed to the behaviour of Willie Walsh at BA and said, “These bastards have to be stopped from giving our members a kicking”.
Delegates also put a motion arguing for unofficial action to beat the laws. It read, “Despite prohibitive and undemocratic anti-union laws, a number of industrial disputes have taken place in 2009 which have resulted in victories or partial victories for working class people”.
It listed strike action at Lindsey Oil Refinery and other construction sites, occupations at Visteon and Vestas and walkouts in prisons as examples.
Colin Calder from Swansea moved it. “Usually unofficial action wins quicker,” he noted. “It’s quite simple – either you show solidarity or you don’t.” Many spoke bitterly of how the anti-union laws had remained after 13 years of a Labour government.
Joint general secretary of Unite, Derek Simpson, spoke against the motion. On the question of illegal action he said, “If people think it’s clever to put the funds of the union at risk, I believe they’re in cloud cuckoo land.” The motion had mentioned several cases where Unite members had indeed taken illegal action and the union’s funds were left untouched.
Simpson asked conference to remit the motion rather than have a vote where the executive would ask delegates to vote it down. Conference agreed. The main composite on fighting the anti-union laws was passed.

1 Jun 2010

Wildcat strike in South Africa

About 150 bus drivers embarked on an illegal strike yesterday demanding that they should be employed permanently as from today. The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) which represents them was trying to persuade them to return to work. The workers have promised the union they would return to work today.
The latest strike follows one about two weeks ago. Drivers’ had downed tools demanding recognition and an explanation of the safety clause in their contracts. Samwu spokesperson Dion Makhura said it was a challenge to deal with the bus drivers, who are mostly from the unregulated taxi industry.
When asked why they went on strike without informing their representatives first, Makhura said: “We do not know. But you have to understand that we are dealing with former taxi drivers here... There is a lot of education regarding labour rights that still needs to be done.”

27 May 2010

Ballot to defend Abdul Omer

Bus workers at two Sovereign Bus garages in west London are set to take part in a consultative ballot this Friday for strike action in defence of their sacked union Unite convenor.
Bosses sacked Abdul Omer Moshin claiming he was intimidating a witness at a disciplinary while representing a worker. His real crime was to have built the union effectively. Management upheld his sacking on appeal, but have now agreed to a “special review” of his case to be held on 2 June.

Bangladeshi drivers strike for justice

Sylhet, Bangladesh
A transport strike paralysed the district's communications on Monday.
Sylhet District Road Transport Labour Union called a day-long strike pressing for the arrest of the murderers who rented a microbus from Sylhet and killed its driver and an assistant in Gazipur on April 26.
The union president Selim Ahmed Falik told journalists that they had gone to the district administration to urge the arrest of the murderers and recovery of the microbus.
The union then called the strike since there were no steps in that direction. 

20 May 2010

Strike against privatisation in China

Baoshan City, Yunnan Province, SW China
Bus drivers have struck over recent reforms at the state-owned company.
The action, which began Monday morning, effects 54 buses covering five routes
The drivers were in dispute over the terms of a reform contract the two sides signed in March. The reforms are an attempt to privatise the company, a driver told Xinhua News Agency.

18 May 2010

Len McCluskey declares support for Abdul Omer

Len McCluskey, Unite’s assistant general secretary, offered “unequivocal support” for Abdul Omer, the sacked convenor at Sovereign Bus in west London, at last week’s London Bus Conference. Plans for a consultative ballot at Sovereign have been postponed until after a “special review” between Unite and a Sovereign director.

East London drivers resist pay cuts

East London Bus Group (ELBG) wants to launch an attack on drivers – but workers are determined to resist.
The mood was militant as 400 drivers packed into East Ham town hall for a meeting with their Unite union reps last week. They heard about ELBG’s plan to save £17 million over six months by pay cuts and attacks on terms and conditions.
Already supervisors face pay cuts of £4,000 a year, redundancies and attacks on holiday entitlement, sick pay and increases to their working hours. Unite’s London regional organiser Peter Kavanagh, told the meeting that the union backed strike action saying, “We are a fighting back union.”
A driver from Plumstead pointed out that ELBG was owned by an Australian bank. He said, “When the banks are broke they go to the taxpayer to bail them out, but they are not getting another penny out of me.” The meeting voted overwhelmingly for an immediate ballot for hard hitting strike action if ELBG propose pay cuts or attacks on terms and conditions.
ELBG’s assault is an issue for every bus driver. If they get away with it, it will set a precedent for companies across the city. Every activist needs to be spreading the message of resistance.

17 May 2010

Helsinki drivers out again

Helsinki, Finland
Drivers working for Helsingin Bussiliikenne Oy are due to strike from Thursday morning to Saturday evening. 
The dispute began when the bus company announced it planned to tear up its own contract with employees and implement an agreement of the Employers’ Federation of Road Transport instead. Unions say this would significantly weaken the present terms and conditions of employment. Drivers went on strike in this same dispute at the beginning of the month, bringing around 40% of the capital's bus services to a halt.

13 May 2010

Drivers defend themselves against police

Kochi, Kerala, India
Private bus workers in the city have called for a strike on May 13 and 14 to protest against what they term as police atrocities following recent road accidents.
“The police are continuing to harass the bus workers and are even trying to defame the bus crew by charging cases against even the innocent workers,” said Private Bus Thozhilali Federation (AITUC) general secretary Joy Joseph.
“We are not against cases being charged on erring bus workers. But now they are targeting each and every worker without verifying whether they are guilty or not,” he said.

Polish drivers revolt against privatisation

Gostynin, Poland
Workers at the state-owned bus company PKS in Gostynin began a strike last Tuesday, 4 May. They are opposing the privatization of the company, and they are threatening to escalate protests.
Workers are also demanding pay rises. They earn pretty close to minimum wage: about 300 euros per month. They are demanding a raise of about 125 euros.
The State Treasury announced in December that it wanted to sell PKS bus companies in seven cities in the region (Mazowsze). The workers are afraid of what may happen after privatization.
The Treasury decides selectively about the fate of such companies, tending to sell off the profitable ones, or the ones with property. On the other hand local governments took them over in places such as Wadowice, Nowy Sącz, Krakow and Starogard Gdanski.
PKS Gostynin is hiring strike breakers. 88 of the 109 workers, including all the drivers, are on strike. There are 4 unions operating in this workplace (such a situation is not unusual in Poland).
Earlier this week union reps were meant to meet with the director of the local PKS for talks. Instead, he threatened to file for bankruptcy if the workers don't return to work. In response, they occupied his office.

12 May 2010

Step up fight for Abdul Omer

The campaign to reinstate the sacked union convenor at Sovereign buses took a step forward last week. A meeting of the Unite union at Sovereign’s two garages in west London backed their officials’ call to hold an indicative ballot for strikes.
Unite will send a letter to every union member at Sovereign asking them to vote “yes”. The ballot will take place at both garages a week on Friday.

East London bus battle

East London Bus Group is threatening to slash wages for all workers. Supervisors face a pay cut of up to £5,000 a year. Bus drivers in the Unite union are holding a union meeting this week to plan a campaign.
Drivers at Arriva North in London have shown what can be won. They got a £750 lump sum for their 2009 settlement and a 2 percent pay rise for 2010. Attacks on conditions were originally attached to the deal, but management dropped these after the threat of action.

10 May 2010

Strike halts Johannesburg's new transport system

Johannesburg, South Africa
Scores of commuters were left stranded on Monday morning due to a surprise strike by the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) employees.
The reason for the sudden suspension of the city's newest form of public transport was not clear as representatives of various stakeholders were locked in meetings and could not be reached for comment. A press release stated: "Rea Vaya buses have not commenced operations this morning due to a union recognition dispute at the Bus Operating Company."

With the World Cup just a month away, transport workers in South Africa are in a strong bargaining position. At least 18,000 port and rail workers are also striking today - for higher wages.