30 Mar 2010

Unite launches campaign for shorter hours

Unite has launched a campaign to shave at least an hour off the driving time of the UK’s bus drivers on grounds of safety, and with no loss of pay.
100,000 Unite members are being mobilised around a Busworkers’ Charter that puts similar demands for improvements to working conditions for all workers in the sector, including ancillary staff, such as maintenance and clerical staff, and tram workers.
Unite’s campaign is mainly aimed at bringing bus drivers into line with the rest of the European Union (EU). Ironically, UK coach and road haulage drivers currently enjoy the protection of the EU regulations.
A national ballot across the industry to determine how Unite’s members want to act has not been ruled out. The British Driving Hours Regulations currently provide for bus drivers to work for up to five and a half hours without any breaks, and up to 16 hours in a whole day. To conform to the spirit of EU regulations, Unite wants:
  • A maximum single piece of driving duty not to exceed four and a half hours
  • A maximum length of driving time of no more than eight hours in one day 
  • A maximum of ten hours total working time in any one day

29 Mar 2010

South African strike part suspended

A planned nationwide strike by bus drivers has been partially averted as the Bus Employers’ Association (SABEA) increased its wage offer to 10 percent. The SATAWU union suspended its strike action for today. Spokesperson Azaria Mataboge says the union will meet the employer this afternoon, after which they can advise their members whether or not the suspended strike will be officially called off.
In contrast, another union – the Transport and Allied Workers’ Union of SA (Tawusa) - says its members will continue with the strike as planned. The third union involved is the Transport and Omnibus Workers Union.
SABEA initially offered a 6.5 percent wage increase while unions demanded 15 percent. Collectively, the unions claim to represent 14,000 bus company workers.

Guatemalan drivers blockade approaches to capital

A nationwide bus drivers strike shut down transit throughout the country and blocked highways into Guatemala City on Monday last week. Security forces removed buses that were blocking the roads, but more than 37,000 intercity drivers vowed to continue the strike until the government meets their demands for more security and a share in subsidies granted to drivers in Guatemala City. 
Driving a bus is notoriously dangerous in Guatemala, where criminal gangs extort protection money from drivers and enforce their demands violently. In 2009, 146 drivers and 60 assistants were murdered by gangs, and 20 have been killed this year.

22 Mar 2010

Norwich drivers vote for deal

A planned strike in Norwich has been called off after a pay offer was accepted by drivers, with 218 voting for it and 117 against. The offer is for a 2.73 percent raise and a one-off payment of £125.
Pay for drivers on rest days will also increase to £8 but all other terms and conditions remain the same.
Unite, which represents the First drivers, urged staff to take the deal.

Wildcat strike breaks out in Rajshahi

Rajshahi bus owners and workers began an indefinite wildcat strike on Sunday, demanding punishment for a group of men who beat up three transport workers in the morning. They were attacked in the Rajshahi central bus terminal area around 10am.

Strike threat wins concessions in Tonga

The Tonga Bus Association has cancelled a planned strike tomorrow after the government agreed to cut huge hikes in fees brought in at the beginning of the year.
All buses across the archipelago in the South Pacific were to stop work tomorrow – in protest at the increases in the annual licence fee from just over 46 US dollars to 216 dollars.
The annual registration fee also increased dramatically, from 28 US dollars to 162 dollars.
The acting permanent Secretary for the Bus Association, Chris Fatai, says an agreement has now been reached between the association and the Government to reduce the fees.
“The two parties have agreed to lower the figure because the figure they gave us was too high.”
Chris Fatai says a final decision about the new bus fees may be announced on Thursday.

15 Mar 2010

Finnish strikers return to work

Finnish transport workers agreed to end a strike that left commuters stranded and made it difficult for companies to transport goods from groceries to gas.
The walkout by 10,000 drivers ended after one day, when workers accepted a mediation proposal, the Transport Workers’ Union said.
The strike stopped bus services, heavy truck transport, garbage collection and fuel deliveries.
The drivers, whose collective agreement expired on Jan. 31, won pay increases of about 0.64 percent per year, payable in installments over two years, according to the  Confederation of Finnish Industries.

Bogota strike ends with minor concessions

Bogota, Columbia
City authorities and Apetrans (an organization of small bus owner-drivers) have reached a deal to end a four-day strike.
The strike, in which 16,400 buses were taken off Bogota’s streets, wreaked havoc on a city that has serious mobility problems even when the public transport system is operating normally. Schools had been closed both to ensure students’ safety and also to use the school bus fleet for mass transportation.
Under the deal, the bus drivers are to receive a fixed monthly income equivalent to 1.5 percent of the value of their vehicles once they are incorporated into the new system.
Mayor Samuel Moreno had offered that figure earlier in the week and refused to raise it further amid the chaos of the strike.
At the start of the strike the drivers had demanded a 5 percent fixed monthly income – based on the value of their buses – for incorporating their vehicles into the new integrated public transport system (SITP). They lowered that demand to 3 percent and then 2 percent before agreeing to Moreno’s 1.5 percent, tax-free offer.
The drivers did succeed, however, in convincing Bogota authorities to increase by 5 percent the price the city will pay to incorporate newer vehicles into the SITP. That concession means a higher fixed monthly income, since those earnings are based on the value of the buses.

10 Mar 2010

Italian drivers to join general strike

Italy's main union, the CGIL, has called a four-hour general strike that will include transport workers.
Trains, planes, ferries and local bus, subway and tram service are expected to be affected.
The union is protesting what it says is a too heavy tax burden on workers, given widespread tax evasion in Italy by those who are self-employed.
It also wants more protection for workers who only have temporary contracts. Also irking labour leaders are changes in how the firing of workers can be challenged under Italy's labor laws.

8 Mar 2010

Arriva Wales backs down

A major bus strike that could have disrupted services across North Wales has been suspended after late night talks. The 24-hour walkout by drivers at Arriva Buses Wales was set to take place on Monday over a long running pay dispute.
Arriva moved to take legal action on Thursday, and impose an injunction banning the planned walkout. But the bid foundered late in the afternoon.
They then went straight into last ditch talks with Unite to try to avert industrial action, and called in conciliation service Acas to help broker a deal.
Peter Hughes of Unite said drivers had been unhappy with the pay offer from Arriva. They claim they have been paid £1 an hour less than drivers in Liverpool for doing “exactly the same job”.
Now Arriva bosses have moved to close the gap in pay. Mr Hughes said: “The company has improved their pay offer so we’re balloting members on the issue: strike action for money is suspended.”

4 Mar 2010

Columbian strike spreads to second city

The public-transit strike affected the Colombian capital for the third consecutive day on Wednesday. It has resulted in traffic chaos, business losses, clashes between demonstrators and police and more than 200 arrests. Round-the-clock negotiations to end the standoff have broken down.
Bus operators went on strike Monday to reject the municipal government’s proposed Integrated Public Transport System, or SITP, taking some 17,000 vehicles out of circulation in protest. Bus operators are unhappy with the amount of money the city is offering them to take aging, high-polluting buses off the road in connection with the new system, which is scheduled to take effect in early 2012 and substantially reduce the city’s vehicle fleet. Many of these small operators feel it is part of a plan to force them off the roads, and to hand their routes over to multinationals.
Meanwhile, officials in Manizales, a neighbouring city of 415,000, confirmed that some transit operators there also launched protests over differences with the municipal authorities; 75 people have been arrested since Tuesday, while another eight have been injured in clashes with police. Police in the city used tear gas and concussion grenades to disperse a student demonstration, which had been staged to protest the new transit system in that city and an increase in fares.

10,000 drivers walk out in "strike-prone" Finland

Finnish transport workers began a strike on Tuesday that halted most bus and heavy truck traffic, stranding commuters and disrupting goods deliveries in the Nordic country.
About 10,000 drivers walked off the job at 6 p.m. local time after rejecting a mediation proposal, the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union said. No date is set for talks in the dispute over pay increases and employment terms.
Finland is one of the most strike-prone countries in Europe, lagging behind only Spain, France and Italy, according to the European Union’s statistics office. Strikes cost Finland an average 71 working days per 1000 workers each year from 2000 to 2007, compared with 137 for Spain and 83 for Italy. Neighboring Sweden lost just 20 days a year.

Anti-union laws stop Sheffield strike

First Bus drivers in Sheffield have been threatened with the sack after voting for strike action.
Some 740 drivers were threatened with dismissal. In response Unite has called off strike action. Drivers announced on 2 March they were planning two more days of strike action – this Saturday and next Monday – as part of a long-running dispute.
First’s South Yorkshire managing director Bob Hamilton sent a letter to all 740 drivers based at the company’s Olive Grove depot in Heeley warning: “Everyone who participates in the action will be dismissed.” Drivers were told they would have no right of appeal and would lose all pension rights.
First said that though the strike would be lawful, drivers had their jobs protected by law only if they held strikes within 12 weeks of a ballot – but Unite balloted its members more than 12 weeks ago.
Once again bus employers are using the anti-union laws to stop action.
Strikes were called after drivers rejected proposals to resolve disputes over disciplinary procedure and rotas at Olive Grove. Unite members are unhappy over harsh disciplinary procedures.
Management stated “The drivers need a fresh ballot to go on strike with full protection.” How many times can the unions allow the anti-union laws to stop action?
At Christmas a 92 percent vote by British Airways workers was overturned in the courts using the anti-union laws. In October 2008 thousands of London busworkers were prevented from taking strike action on legal technicalities. The list goes on. Some 13 years into a New Labour government why are these laws still in place?

3 Mar 2010

Alabama pickets win over scabs

On Monday morning about 60 bus drivers at the University of Alabama, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1208, took to the picket line.
The university brought in scabs, but students had longer waiting times because so few buses made it out.
Strikers reported small successes, including convincing one scab to drive off after a confrontation. Two other workers who were going to cross the line took off their company jackets and joined the pickets. “Nothing’s ever going to change if you go in there and work for $9.50!” strikers yelled.
The union’s members, officers, and staff are predominantly Black and their fight has given labor struggle a visibility not normally accorded to unions and workers in the Deep South.
The union has filed several unfair labor practice charges over the company’s firing workers for union activity.
West Alabama’s union community has pulled together to support the drivers, too. The powerful Steelworkers Local 351L has given ATU space at their hall for its base of operations.

2 Mar 2010

Finland hit by indefinite strike

The Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) goes on strike today at 6 p.m. It threatens to stop bus traffic, halt goods transport and close ports.
Two-thirds of long-distance buses and around the same percentage of capital city bus transport will grind to a halt. About 80 percent of garbage collection will cease, while plane fuelling will also be disrupted. There’s been no end date announced for the strike - it will last until further notice.
A port stoppage by stevedores scheduled for Thursday (March 4) may bring foreign trade to a halt. After a few days, shortages could be seen in grocery stores.
The union and employers are locked in a dispute over wages. The drivers are seeking a two-year contract that includes the average pay increase awarded to industrial workers as a whole, plus a 4.5 percent raise on top, the industry federation said on its Web site.
Port workers, who belong to the same union as the drivers, disagree with the employers over job guarantees.

Alabama strike wins support of passengers

Tuscaloosa, Alabama
At the University of Alabama, bus drivers, students and supporters picketed First Transit headquarters the morning of March 1.
One of the Alabama bus drivers, Felicia Graves, said, “I am demanding that we be fairly treated. I’ve driven the bus for some of ‘my babies’ - I call them ‘my babies’ since I’ve known them from when they were in the fourth grade. The company refuses to do any maintenance on these buses and not only are they putting my safety on the line but also they’re putting the students safety on the line. I’m going on strike until they give us respect. I’m already not making money. I have nothing to lose.”
Another Crimson Ride driver, Singrid Sanders, said, “We really love working and doing what we do, but they aren’t taking us seriously. I’m going on strike until they recognize us for the hard work that we do.”
Students are also involved, and Students for a Democratic Society organized a rally on campus in support of the strike. Dozens of students and supporters met on the quad to show support for the drivers.

Bogota strike spreads as taxi drivers join in

Bogota, Columbia
The city-wide bus strike that paralyzed Bogota transport on Monday is set to expand on Tuesday, with many intermunicipal bus drivers and city taxi drivers planning to join the protest on Tuesday morning.
Colombian newspaper El Espectador is reporting that 21,000 of Bogota’s taxi drivers are planning to strike tomorrow, and that many buses that travel between Bogota and other cities will be staying parked tomorrow.
The strike is being led by the Association of Small Transporters (Apetrans) who are protesting the terms that the city government has presented them to sell their old vehicles and buy new ones.
The lack of 16,000 city buses on the road led to widespread chaos in the city on Monday, as the only available public transport system, the rapid bus transit system Transmilenio, was flooded with more than 150,000 riders than normal.
Tempers flared and pedestrians flooded streets throughout the city on Monday, blocking traffic during rush hour.


1 Mar 2010

First Group are paid $55.50, but drivers only get $9.50

Bus drivers at the University of Alabama (UA) are considering a strike after rejecting the latest pay offer from First Transit, a subsidiary of First Group.
“The employees are fed up and want to strike, but we have to have a plan on what to do,” said Kenneth Kirk, international vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
About 62 drivers voted unanimously in May 2009 to join the union, complaining of low wages compared to routes managed by First Transit. The drivers at UA are paid $9.50 an hour. They also receive no pay on university breaks and holidays.
UA pays First Transit $55.50 per work hour, or $1.8 million for about 32,400 hours annually, according to the contract between UA and the company.
Kirk called the disparity between what UA pays the company and what the company pays drivers ridiculous, and said a strike is likely to be the only way drivers can get what they want.
“Strikes are effective,” he said. “When you have a company that practices greed like we have here, they’ll listen to a strike.”