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%.