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.”