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

AsunciĆ³n, 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.