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.