19 Dec 2011

Unite seek £500 payment for Olympics

Unite has written to bus operators in the capital calling for talks over an Olympic payment for up to 28,000 workers. An award of £500 would be in line with what other London transport staff will be getting for working during the Games, said the union, adding that an extra 800,000 passengers are expected to travel on buses during the Olympics, generating "significant" extra revenue.
Press Association

15 Dec 2011

Stagecoach Yorkshire: four more strike days

Members of the Unite trade union have still not reached an agreement over pay with bosses at Stagecoach depots covering Barnsley, Dearne Valley and Rotherham. The latest walkouts will be on Friday and Saturday this week, and January 4 and 16. But Stagecoach said it was drafting in more than 100 supervisors and managers to keep ‘the majority of daytime services running’.

13 Dec 2011

Veolia to dump transport as it seeks to cut debt

Veolia Environnement, pressured by a slumping share price and two straight profit warnings, aims to sell its transport business as part of a plan to shed 5 billion euros ($6.73 billion) of assets in the next two years.
Alongside the french multinational's transport activities, which made revenues of 5.8 billion euros in 2010, Veolia also seeks to sell its UK regulated water activities and its U.S. solid waste business.
Veolia Transport, with 80,756 employees, runs buses, trains and ferries across 27 countries and includes Veolia Transdev, a joint venture created in March with state bank Caisse des Depots (CDC).
The asset sales would help reduce Veolia's debt to below 12 billion euros by the end of 2013 from 15 billion at the end of September.
http://www.reuters.com

Stagecoach fined over worker's injury at garage

Barnsley, Yorkshire
Stagecoach has been fined after a teenage apprentice was injured by a bus while he was carrying out repairs. Barnsley Magistrates' Court heard that Ben Burgin became trapped under the 14 tonne bus when its air suspension failed. He needed surgery to his nose and eye socket following the incident, which took place at Stagecoach Yorkshire's Barnsley garage in September 2009. Workers at the same garage are currently striking against low pay.
Stagecoach Yorkshire pleaded guilty to two health and safety offences. The firm was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £8,473 in costs. The court heard Mr Burgin, who was aged 17 when the accident happened, was working alongside an experienced fitter to correct a braking fault on a bus fitted with an air suspension system. Rather than moving the bus over an inspection pit, they attempted to fix the fault with the bus still on the garage floor.
Mr Burgin slid beneath the bus near the front passenger wheel and was making adjustments when the air suspension failed suddenly and the bus dropped on him, badly injuring his face. He was freed when another worker rushed to help and they were able to raise the bus sufficiently to get him out.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which brought the prosecution against the operator's owners, Yorkshire Traction Company Ltd of Stockport, Cheshire.
http://www.bbc.co.uk

9 Dec 2011

Weymouth drivers threaten strike during Olympics

Weymouth, Dorset
Drivers at First Bus are threatening to ‘cause chaos’ by striking during the Olympics. First Weymouth drivers claim they are the worst paid drivers in the region and have rejected a two-year pay deal.
Threats of strike action come after First Bus Group was announced as an official Games transport provider. Final talks about pay will be held between unions and management on December 14.
One Weymouth driver, who didn’t wish to be named, said: “We are looking at industrial action and we’re thinking about striking during the Olympics if we don’t achieve this pay deal... There are about 100 drivers who are prepared to walk out. We’re thinking about half day strikes – it will cause chaos."

Upset
Drivers are also said to be upset because current sickness benefit will be replaced with a sliding scale attendance bonus scheme.
Drivers have rejected a two-year pay deal that will increase their basic pay from £7.70 an hour to £8 in the first year and to £8.20 in the second year. First bus management have offered for the established overtime rate to go up from £8.88 an hour to £9.18 an hour in the first year and £9.28 an hour in the second year.
http://www.dorsetecho.co.uk

7 Dec 2011

We aren't dogs. We can't be urinating on the street

Brent Cross, North London
Bus drivers at Metroline are urinating in bushes after their toilet was vandalised. Transport provider TfL closed the toilet, outside Brent Cross Shopping Centre in Hendon, on Monday, due to ‘misuse’ of the facility. Graffiti was found on the walls and flooding in the only male toilet. Driver Marcia Mansfield said she has to urinate in the nearby bush when the shopping centre is closed as she has nowhere else to go. She said: “Why do the good have to suffer for the bad?” She said the toilet is closed every few weeks, leaving the drivers in a desperate position.

Dogs
Another driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We are not dogs - we can’t be urinating on the street. Five hours without a toilet, it is not right.” He says if drivers are caught urinating outside, they can be fined £80.
Driver Mr D. Kamal says TfL lock both toilets despite the problems only ever being in the male cubicle. “The ladies are suffering for nothing,” he said. “Some bus drivers have to hold on up until 10 o’clock which is a health hazard.”
He says there are not enough facilities for the amount of drivers covering the route and they are a poor standard so they leak all the time. Currently, there is one toilet for male bus drivers and one for female drivers. The toilets are due to re-open by Friday next week.

Passengers back Barnsley strike

Stagecoach bus drivers in Barnsley and Rawmarsh struck again on Friday and Saturday of last week in protest at their low wages. The drivers, members of the Unite union, are on £8.57 an hour for a 38-hour week.
Stagecoach is imposing a below-inflation 2 percent increase with no back pay, keeping them the lowest paid bus drivers in South Yorkshire. Picket lines were large and lively. Scab drivers were barracked, while drivers at other bus companies were cheered when they stopped to show support. A number of the scab drivers stuck two fingers up at the pickets. When some pickets swore back, the police imposed £80 spot fines on two of them.

Delighted
Strikers were delighted when lorries refused to cross picket lines, particularly when a Michelin Tyres driver turned back. Barnsley College UCU union members took a £50 donation to the picket line on Friday.
Barnsley town centre was quiet on Saturday. Very few people travelled on the scab buses. Many passengers had told the drivers on Thursday that they would respect the strike. A local cafe offered to supply cut price “striker specials” on the strike days.
Strikers held a mass meeting on Sunday and voted to strike for one day a week until Christmas. This is a brave decision. The drivers need our support.
Email messages of support to Barnsley Unite branch secretary Tony Rushforth: 
a-rushforth@sky.com. Send cheques payable to 'Barnsley Unite' to Tony at 45 Tune Street, Barnsley, S73 8PX

6 Dec 2011

Tunisian busworkers strike over security

Bus drivers and conductors operating Line 23 from the Tunis Transport Company (TRANSTU) continued their strike yesterday, to demand “mobile security guards” to protect them against repeated attacks. About 50 workers operate the 25 buses on the route.
Workers from other regions have also agreed to join the strike – namely those operating the lines serving Manouba’s suburbs and Lines 90, 91, 92, and 61. 
During the last two weeks various people have tried to prevent Line 23 from operating in protest at its infrequency and the repeated delays.

1 Dec 2011

Cardiff Bus completely shut down by N30 strike

Yesterday morning, Cardiff Bus announced no services were expected to run as drivers took part in the strikes. Managing Director of Cardiff Bus, David Brown, said: "It is with regret that we confirm that bus services on Wednesday will be withdrawn as a result of strike action...
We had hoped to have sufficient staff numbers to be able to run a limited service but, unfortunately, this is not possible".
http://www.capitalfm.com

Court stops Warrington drivers joining N30 strike

Warrington, Cheshire
Bosses at Network Warrington, the town's bus company, won a last minute injunction to stop its staff from joining yesterday's big strike. They took the Unite union to the High Court on Monday after ‘inconsistencies’ in the ballot papers sent out. 

25 Nov 2011

Cardiff bus workers to join N30 strike

Bus services in Cardiff face major disruption next week as drivers take part in widespread strike action. Cardiff Bus says it has been advised by the two trade unions representing its employees, Unite and Unison, that following a ballot their members intend to take part in the strike action, which is opposed to proposed government changes to the pension scheme.
The company has been historically linked with the scheme since 1986, when it was formed, but says it has no involvement with, or control over it, and stressed it has no involvement with the dispute. Although just 66 employees out of a total of 730 are members of the scheme, all employees were balloted for industrial action.
http://www.walesonline.co.uk

23 Nov 2011

Councils bid to take back Tyne and Wear routes

Bus services on Tyneside are facing a massive shake-up in a ground-breaking plan. City leaders will this week be told to authorise Nexus, the organisation which owns the Metro system, to kick-start a process which will see London-style bus control powers returned to Tyne and Wear’s five councils.
Their request will end 25 years of bus operators controlling which services go where, and at what cost, as the councils effectively move to renationalise every bus route in Tyneside, with Nexus tasked with handing out one bus contract covering the entire system. Council leaders are to be told bus firms have soaked up taxpayer funds in exchange for rising costs and unreliable services, and that the time for change has finally come.
The move follows a damning report into bus operators by the Competition Commission which said passengers had lost out when bus operators Arriva and Go North East carved up patches between them.

Confusion
Nexus will tell a meeting of the Integrated Transport Authority this Thursday that the major bus firms have failed, with frequent changes to services creating passenger confusion and a lack of stability. It is thought there are currently more than 100 different tickets available in Tyne and Wear. Between them the five finance departments in Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside and Sunderland spend more than £59m a year of taxpayers’ money on bus subsidies and concessionary fares.
At Thursday’s meeting, Nexus is expected to be given the go-ahead to spend six months outlining what it would do if it took control of buses. The major firms would be asked to come up with an alternative version of this and in May next year the two will be judged.
http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk

Report from Barnsley picket

Bus workers in South Yorkshire struck on Friday of last week and Monday of this week. Members of Unite at Stagecoach’s Barnsley and Rawmarsh depots walked out over pay.
One picket told Socialist Worker, “Even Stagecoach drivers in other parts of the county get more than we do.” Friday morning saw more than 40 workers on lively, confident picket lines outside the Barnsley bus station and the bus garage.
The company has tried to break the strike with scab drivers. Over 100 have been brought in and put up in hotels to operate routes at a flat fare of £1 on strike days.
Even larger numbers of pickets turned out on Monday morning. One potential passenger told the pickets, “I’m going to walk to the hospital rather than take a scab bus. I was a miner for 25 years and you have my full support.”
One worker said, “The dispute has been going on since April. We’ve been trying to get a top rate of £9 an hour, which is still £2.50 an hour less than Arriva, plus back pay. “Stagecoach spent a fortune on drafting in drivers and putting them up in hotels for strike days. I think our boss is on a power trip.” The workers plan to strike again on 2 and 3 December.

22 Nov 2011

Union busting in New York

New York's City Hall and Department of Education are pushing school bus drivers and attendants toward a strike that would affect some 152,000 students, including 70,000 with disabilities.
Officials from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1181 say a strike is likely, though no date has been set. The dispute is over the city's reversal of a policy on job protection that officials had promised would be preserved for the sake of student safety. Now they want to scrap it! Apparently Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration have decided that the risk to safety is worth it if they can break the union.
http://socialistworker.org

20 Nov 2011

Support South Yorkshire strikes

Stagecoach are trying to break the South Yorkshire strike by importing more than a 100 scab drivers from across the country. They have put them up in a hotel, have run ghost route-learning buses, and are levying a flat rate fare on strike days at great cost.
Barnsley Trade Council members supported the picket lines on Friday. If you're in the area, please show your support on the next strike days (Monday 21 November, Friday 2 and Saturday 3 December) at the Barnsley and Rawmarsh depots. Send messages of support and donations (made out to Unite Barnsley) to the local Unite steward: Stuart Bacon, 33 Dearne Road, Brampton, Barnsley S73 0XA.

18 Nov 2011

South Yorkshire drivers on first 24-hour strike

Bus drivers in parts of South Yorkshire are staging the first of four planned strikes. Unite union members working for Stagecoach South Yorkshire are on a 24-hour strike at Barnsley and Rawmarsh depots in a pay dispute. Phil Brown, regional officer for Unite, said: "The response from the membership is strong." He said 98% of drivers at the two depots were out on strike.
Stagecoach claimed it was running a near-normal level of service between 7am and 6pm. The company said it had drafted in about 100 extra drivers to keep services running.

Irish busworkers to join N30 strike

Ireland
Bus and train services in the North could be halted after drivers in Unite voted to join the public sector walkout at the end of the month. Three in four members of Unite submitted a ‘yes’ vote to join the national strike day, called in opposition to changes to public sector pensions.
But Translink, their employer, said it was too early to say what impact the walkout will have on its services. The workers will join their counterparts across the UK who have already voted in favour of the strike, including Greater Manchester Transport and Cardiff Buses.
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk

17 Nov 2011

Maltese government deems strike illegal

Malta
Arriva drivers have been directed to stop working at 8pm today by their union, but the government is insisting that such industrial action is now illegal. The Transport Ministry says that public transport has been redefined as an essential service – akin to healthcare and the police. The redefinition limits the industrial actions that can be done: a basic service has to be maintained at all times, regardless of any industrial disputes. The ministry said that it would not tolerate the a reduction in the frequency of scheduled services by more than half while industrial action is taking place.
The General Workers’ Union has announced the action over drivers’ working schedules, stating that the existing “long and inhuman” rosters remained unchanged despite its numerous attempts to resolve the matter. 

16 Nov 2011

Abdul Omer loses employment tribunal

Abdul Omer Mohsin, the sacked trade union convenor and bus worker, is back in hospital after being taken ill on Sunday. He had previously signed himself out of hospital to attend his employment tribunal, which took place in Watford last week.
The tribunal revolved around disputed accounts of a meeting at Abdul Omer’s workplace. The judges accepted management’s account of proceedings rather than Abdul Omer’s and upheld his sacking.
Abdul Omer maintains that he was removed from his job in April 2010 because of his trade union activities. He played a prominent role in a pay campaign at London Sovereign buses. His legal team, which was provided by the Unite union, are considering whether there are any grounds on which to appeal the verdict.
His workmates have refused to elect another convenor and have made his case part of their wider pay campaign. Drivers at both Edgware and Harrow garages have voted to ballot for strikes over his sacking.
It is difficult for workers to win at employment tribunals. Of 47,900 unfair dismissal claims between April 2010 to March 2011, 4,200 won at a tribunal. In only eight of these cases did the tribunal order reinstatement.

15 Nov 2011

Stagecoach to use scabs to break Yorkshire strike

Four days of strikes are planned by bus workers in Yorkshire if a pay dispute is not resolved by Friday. Unite members at Stagecoach South Yorkshire could walk out on Friday, the following Monday, and 2 and 3 December. Barnsley, Rotherham and the Dearne Valley would be affected. Stagecoach said more than 100 relief drivers would be drafted in from other areas to replace the strikers on those days.

10 Nov 2011

Abdul Omer employment tribunal begins


Some two dozen supporters and workmates of sacked Unite union convenor Abdul Omer Mohsin gathered outside his employment tribunal, which started in Watford on Monday.
Abdul Omer was sacked by bus company London Sovereign in March last year. He had played a leading role in the Unite union’s campaign to win better pay.
Yassim from Sovereign’s Harrow depot was at the lobby. “We think Omer is being victimised,” he told Socialist Worker. “He’s our elected convenor and we need to support him.” Abdul Omer’s tribunal is expected to run until Friday.

8 Nov 2011

Portuguese transport workers strike over austerity

Public transport services are severely disrupted across Portugal today as workers strike over government austerity measures.
Not a single subway station in Lisbon was open this morning and no trains were scheduled to run before 10am. Bus services in Lisbon and the northern city of Porto stopped running at 10am. Maritime transport services in Lisbon are due to be affected, and most train services across the country are heavily disrupted.
The government has said it will implement the austerity programme in return for the €78bn bailout it received in May from the EU and IMF. Private sector employees will be requested to work 30 minutes more per day, VAT will rise, and health and education budgets will be slashed. Portugal's two main unions have called for a general strike on 24 November.

7 Nov 2011

Wildcat strike hits Detroit

Detroit, Michigan, USA
Over 100 bus drivers refused to go out on their routes Friday following an altercation between a driver and a group of passengers the previous evening. The driver was treated for his injuries and released from a local hospital.
The unofficial strike forced the cancellation of many routes. It took place under conditions of a near collapse of public transit in the city due to budget cuts. Pasengers have faced the elimination of routes and waits of long as three hours for a bus.
These conditions have fueled friction between passengers and drivers in a city already rife with social tensions due to massive unemployment and pervasive poverty. However, in the wake of the walkout the only demand raised by the drivers union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26, was for increased policing of transit routes, including random police boarding of busses.
http://www.wsws.org

4 Nov 2011

Stagecoach and National Express: revenues up

Strong growth abroad helped offset weaker demand for bus services in the UK at National Express and Stagecoach. National Express said revenues were up 7 per cent at Alsa Bus and Coach services, its Spanish bus operator, in the nine months to the end of September. Revenues in its North American school bus business rose 10 per cent in the period. National Express expanded in the US in September, paying $200m cash for Petermann Partners, an Ohio-based bus operator. But the robust performance in Spain and the US compared with more modest revenue growth of 2 per cent in the UK bus operations.

Stagecoach
Stagecoach said it had seen 12 per cent revenue growth in North America in the five months to the end of September. The company’s fastest growing regional business is Megabus, a service based on the budget airline model. Megabus is thought to have profit margins of about 20 per cent in a market where it competes directly with domestic airlines offering shorthaul flights. Stagecoach reported growth of 2.2 per cent in the UK.

3 Nov 2011

Support Abdul Omer at his employment tribunal

Supporters of Abdul Omer Mohsin, the sacked Unite union convenor at London Sovereign buses, will mount a protest outside his employment tribunal on Monday morning next week.
Abdul Omer was sacked by Sovereign in March last year after playing a leading role in Unite’s campaign to win better pay on London buses. Unite is funding his legal representation at his tribunal, which lasts from 7 to 11 November.
Abdul Omer’s case was boosted last Saturday when drivers at Edgware, Sovereign’s main bus garage, voted unanimously to ballot for strike action over his sacking. Drivers at Abdul Omer’s garage at Harrow voted for a similar motion last month.
Left wing Labour MP John McDonnell has also backed his case, saying, “We need trade unionists like Abdul Omer if we are to protect our members’ jobs, wages and conditions.”
Lobby the employment tribunal: 
Monday 7 November, 9am to 10am, 
@ Radius House, 51 Clarendon Rd, Watford WD17 1HU

25 Oct 2011

Indefinite strike hits Ontario

York Region, Ontario, Canada
About 560 drivers and mechanics from York Region Transit and the Viva Express route walked off the job at 4am yesterday. They are demanding parity. Their current pay is $22 per hour – $7 less than their GTA counterparts.
“If a two-week strike doesn’t send a message maybe it’ll have to be two months,” said Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents 220 Viva workers employed by Veolia Transport. The three striking groups represent about 60 per cent of York Region’s transit workers. A fourth group of Veolia employees continue to work in the southwest part of the region.
http://www.thestar.com

21 Oct 2011

Wildcat strike at Stagecoach in Fife

Leven, Fife, Scotland
Dozens of employees at a Fife bus depot caused disruption to services in the region by staging a wildcat strike yesterday. Several early-morning bus services were affected when up to 65 members of staff at Stagecoach's Aberhill depot in Leven downed tools.
Bosses were stunned when drivers began the unofficial industrial action at 4.30am. The stand-off continued until around 7.40am when the drivers were persuaded to return to work. Despite the apparent resolution, there were warnings further strikes could be on the cards if the workers' concerns are not taken on board.
It is understood the walkout was in protest at their treatment by management, amid claims local agreements have been breached in recent months. Most of the services affected were in the Levenmouth area, but the action also disrupted a number of express services from Fife and Glasgow.
One worker at the Aberhill depot, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals, told The Courier there is a high likelihood of more industrial action if talks with management break down. "It's all to do with management walking over the top of us and something had to be done,'' the worker said. ''We've got local agreements in place, but the management seem to be happy to break these time and time again. ''The drivers went back to work but if the management don't listen to us and don't come to negotiations then there could be more strikes to follow.''
The source said things came to a head at the depot when a high-ranking union representative was suspended by the company earlier this week. ''That was the final straw and we believe the allegations against this person are false,'' he added.
http://www.thecourier.co.uk

18 Oct 2011

Swaziland: drivers strike for arrested colleague

Swaziland, Southern Africa
Bus drivers in Manzini and Mbabane struck on Monday. This followed the arrest of one of their colleagues, Ncamiso Nkwanyana, who was later fined E5,000. He is still in custody.
According to Sabelo Dlamini, secretary general of the Swaziland Local Kombi Transport Association, the driver was charged with two counts – failure to issue passengers with tickets and the obstruction of a traffic police officer in the execution of his duties. Dlamini said this was not received well by the rest of the public transport workers.
The strike follows a demonstration by drivers at the end of September. 
That chaotic protest was staged first at the Manzini Bus Rank and then Mbabane Bus Rank, and was characterised by tumult in the streets that partially brought the cities to a standstill. The main cause for it was the arrest and E6,000 fine of two public transport workers. The money was paid by the kombi association which also convinced workers to call off the strike.

13 Oct 2011

Aberdeen drivers threaten to strike

Drivers at First in Aberdeen are threatening to strike over Christmas – in protest at plans to cut the amount of overtime they can work. First hopes to cut the number of overtime shifts drivers can work on their days off. At present drivers who work on these days can earn around £70 per shift.
Unite spokesman Tommy Campbell said the cuts in overtime would cost drivers around £500 to £1,000 per year. He said: "We find this quite disgraceful. We have made our position quite clear to the company that they should back off and if they don’t we will be left with no alternative but to ballot for industrial action."
http://news.stv.tv

12 Oct 2011

Cairo strike wins some demands

Public Transport Authority (PTA) workers in Cairo have returned to work following a 12 day strike. They secured a deal which met some of their demands for improved pay, investment and an end to corruption in the PTA. The strike has exposed tensions in the government over how to deal with the rising tide of workers’ demands. The minister of labour agreed to transfer money to meet the strikers’ wage claim, yet public transport bosses have denied receiving the cash.

Lobby for Abdul Omer

Supporters of Abdul Omer Mohsin, victimised Unite union convenor at London Sovereign buses, are organising a lobby of his employment tribunal to demand his reinstatement. The lobby takes place at 9am on Monday 7 November outside Radius House, 51 Clarendon Road, Watford WD17 1HU. Nearest tube: Watford (Metropolitan line). Supporters are encouraged to bring union and campaign banners.

5 Oct 2011

Unanimous vote to back Abdul Omer

Harrow, North West London
The campaign to reinstate victimised trade unionist Abdul Omer Mohsin was boosted on Sunday when his colleagues at Harrow bus garage voted 17-0 to support him. Their motion calls on the Unite union to launch an “active campaign” to back Abdul Omer. It says this should culminate in a strike ballot over both his case and an ongoing pay dispute at London Sovereign buses.
The unanimous vote makes clear that Abdul Omer has a high level of support. Bus workers want Unite to fight to reinstate his job and his post as union convenor. Sovereign sacked Abdul Omer over a year ago after he helped lead an equal pay campaign for London bus drivers. Bosses have since used the sacking to weaken the union in the garage. His employment tribunal hearing starts on 7 November.
Donations to Mr A I Omer, Barclays, account 20408859, sort code 20-69-15. 
Copies of Unite branch cheques should be sent to Peter Kavanagh, Unite, Woodberry, 218 Green Lanes, London N4 2HB. Email Abdul at omermohsin2@yahoo.co.uk

4 Oct 2011

National Express buys US bus group for $200m

National Express has bet on a recovery in the US school bus market with the purchase of an Ohio-based operator whose 3,300 yellow buses will increase the UK company’s fleet by 20 per cent.
The Birmingham-based bus, coach and rail operator will buy Petermann Partners for $200m cash on a debt-free basis from Macquarie Global Opportunities Partners, the private equity group.
National Express already owns two student transport companies in North America, and commands about 14 per cent of the US privatised school bus market. That makes it second only to Aberdeen-based FirstGroup, the leading operator by market share.
Dean Finch (CEO of National Express) expects privatisation of the US’s approximately 530,000 school buses to be steady, if slow. “There is a sensible, meaningful number of buses – roughly 3,000 to 5,000 buses – a year that go from public sector to private sector, and we’re glad to take our share of that business,” he said.

3 Oct 2011

Egypt's drivers declare indefinite sit-in

Cairo, Egypt
Transport authority workers will continue their sit-in outside the Cabinet’s offices after Saturday night’s failed government negotiations. Around a thousand striking transport workers from across Cairo have been demonstrating on Qasr El-Aini Street, one of the city’s major thoroughfares, and Maglis Al-Shaab Street, the seat of Egypt’s Parliament.

Celebratory
The strikers are maintaining their resolve, displaying no signs of fatigue. Scenes in front of the Cabinet have in fact bordered on celebratory. Protesters, for instance, have been standing atop buses, beating on drums and chanting against Sharaf and Minister of Manpower Ahmed Hassan El-Boraei.
The government’s intransigence, according to many workers, has galvanised strikers even more. Many have complained that the Cabinet has been playing games with them and refusing to take them seriously. “We are human beings, we are also parents. We want to serve the public, but the government doesn’t want to take us seriously,” a 21-year veteran bus driver exclaimed.

Sunday
Workers told Ahram Online that they woke up on Sunday morning to report to work believing the government had agreed to their demands as State TV and various media outlets announced the night before. However, the independent union had in fact not signed the agreement, as the terms reportedly presented a setback rather than a step forward.
After buses from 14 garages out of 24 began the morning shift drivers were informed there was no deal. Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s Cabinet announced that it had allocated the LE128 million needed to meet the transport workers demands for wage restructuring and end of service bonuses but the drivers say that they realised only half this amount was really allocated. 
Also, the offer, according to the striking workers, came with punitive and inhumane conditions. The drivers, for example, currently work 20 days per month. The Cabinet’s offer, however, demanded that workers clock-in 26 days per month in order to qualify for the wage adjustments.

Egypt: striking drivers blockade Parliament

Around three thousand workers from the Public Transport Authority blocked the street outside Parliament in Cairo on Saturday, demanding increases to their wages, a rise of 200% in their incentive pay, and the resignation of Ahmad al-Borai, the Minister of Labour and Migration, because of what they described as “his failure to solve their crisis”.
The workers shouted “Borai out!” and “We’re not going, he’s going” (echoing the famous chants against Mubarak during the uprising in February). Some of them attacked Ali Fattouh, president of the Independent Public Transport Authority Workers’ Union, considering that the independent union had aggravated the crisis.
Activist Gigi Ibrahim was detained by the army for three hours, as they objected to her filming the blockade. They then forced her to delete the footage. Gigi believes she may have been detained for trying to give accurate information about the strike which contradicts official statements. "The army has been trying to convince ‎the public that the strike is over and that the drivers’ demands have been fulfilled, and ‎that is not true" she said.

29 Sep 2011

Cairo bus workers: ‘No deal, the strike goes on’

Mass meetings in bus garages across Cairo were reported to have rejected a deal agreed between leaders of the independent union, the Minister of Labour and the management of the Public Transport Authority, Al-Ishtaraki newspaper reported on 28 September.
The deal was hammered out in a 3-hour meeting the previous day, which saw Minister of Labour Ahmad al-Borai storm out of the negotiations after one of the workers, Fuad Salih accused the current government of following the same policies as the old regime.
 In a heated exchange, Salih told the minister “We were patient with the old regime for 30 years, and then they turned out to be a bunch of thieves. Now, Mr Minister, you want us to be patient again! Are you having a laugh?” Al-Borai called security to throw Salih out of the room, but stormed out himself after others intervened to try and calm the situation down.
According to reports of the agreement released on 27 September, the Public Transport Authority and Ministry of Finance agreed to a timetable for studying workers’ demands for improvements in pay, bonuses and conditions, and to look into their complaints about the poor condition of the bus fleet.
However, when independent union negotiators returned to mass meetings at the garages, the majority of strikers rejected the deal, and insisted that the strike continue until their demands are met.

26 Sep 2011

Strike engulfs Greater Cairo


A weeklong strike by public-sector bus drivers was joined today by drivers from the Greater Cairo Company, run by the Cairo Transport Authority (CTA), according to Ali Fattouh, strike organiser and head of the independent syndicate for Public Transport Authority (PTA) workers.
Air-conditioned CTA buses, which generally serve middle-income Egyptians and students, are more comfortable and in better condition than Cairo's regular public buses.
Drivers vowed to maintain their ongoing sit-in – in front of the Cabinet building and in 24 bus depots throughout the capital – until their demands for better pay and improved working conditions are met.
"The prime minister on Sunday promised to respond to our demands within hours," Fattouh told Ahram Online. "We're still waiting." Fattouh added that most of Cairo's public buses are still languishing in their garages after bus drivers and ticket collectors in 24 out of Cairo's 25 bus stations had joined the strike action.
Last Thursday, Over 2,000 state-employed drivers and ticket collectors also staged protests in front of PTA headquarters in Cairo’s Nasr City district. Strikers have threatened to mobilise tens of thousands of their colleagues in rural governorates if their grievances aren't addressed.

22 Sep 2011

Cairo strikers fight to transform workplace

After months of fruitless talks with the Public Transport Authority (PTA), Cairo bus drivers and ticket collectors have threatened to broaden their strike. Most of Cairo's public buses are now languishing in their garages as bus drivers and ticket collectors maintain their strike for improved working conditions and better salaries. By Wednesday, workers at twenty out of the capital's 24 public bus depots had reportedly joined the strike.
"We will remain on strike until we're treated like human beings and provided with a minimum wage," 45-year-old ticket collector Hesham Abdel Hakim told Ahram Online. "With my current salary, I can't even buy clothes for my children."
Along with better pay and conditions, drivers and collectors are also demanding more presentable uniforms. They also complain of longstanding corruption at the PTA, and of the  poor condition of the buses currently in use. In front of the Mazallat and El-Teraa bus garages, hundreds of workers - none in uniform - could be seen milling around, discussing their next move. Buses, meanwhile, most of them old and dilapidated, sat idly inside.
PTA workers complain of unrealistically low wages and a lack of medical insurance. Bus workers generally receive a fixed monthly salary of LE250, along with a small commission depending on the number of tickets sold. Drivers are demanding monthly salaries of LE1200, considered the minimum salary needed to get by in Egypt by most economists.
In the wake of the recent revolution, former finance minister Samir Radwan had approved a 200 per cent salary increase for all public transport workers starting July 2011. But the promised increase never materialized, and transport workers remained until recently in talks with PTA officials.
Fed up with fruitless negotiations, bus workers in the Mazallat garage in Cairo's Shubra district began their strike on Sunday. On Tuesday, workers received written approval for their promised pay raises from PTA chief Mona Mostafa. Workers were later surprised, however, to hear Mostafa declare on a private satellite TV station that the PTA would not give in to strikers' demands. Workers were further incensed to hear Mostafa describe them as ''thugs.'' ''We refuse to be described this way, so we decided to join the strike,'' 35-year-old mechanic at Cairo's El-Teraa garage Mohamed Nabil told Ahram Online.
Meanwhile, Transport Authority police have barred journalists and photographers from entering bus depots to talk to striking drivers and collectors. ''They don’t want anyone taking photos of the rundown buses inside the garage,” Nabil said.
As of press time, government officials had still failed to re-launch formal negotiations with striking workers. Cairo bus drivers, for their part, say that workers at all 24 of Cairo's bus depots would join their strike today if their demands remained unmet.
http://english.ahram.org.eg
Send messages of support for the strike to the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions at eluf2011@gmail.com and copy to menasolidarity@gmail.com

21 Sep 2011

Cairo drivers escalate strike

Cairo bus drivers escalated their strike today, closing at least 10 garages out of 22 in the capital. Mohamed Mounir, one of the organisers of the action, told Ahram Online that the number of striking garages could have reached 20.
Yesterday drivers announced that they were ready to suspend the strike if their promises were met, after a meeting with the Public Transport Authority. The meeting between workers’ representatives and Mona Mostafa, president of the Authority, resulted in an agreement that there would be an increase of 200 percent on workers’ bonuses.
However Mostafa then appeared on Hayat TV, a private channel, and described the drivers already on strike as thugs. Consequently, more drivers have joined the strike today.

20 Sep 2011

62,000 Cairo drivers may strike tomorrow

Sixty two thousand public transport workers in the greater Cairo area who serve a population of close to 20 million have threatened to strike tomorrow if administration promises on paying worker benefits are not kept.
The workers are calling for pay raises and other financial incentives in order to hit LE1200 mark which is considered by most economists a minimum amount necessary for basic survival in Egypt. Some drivers have been on strike since Sunday but said they will suspend it if an official decision is issued today. 

16 Sep 2011

Metroline drivers vote for action

More than 150 bus drivers working for Metroline at the Potters Bar garage in London have voted for industrial action. The drivers are sick of what they describe as mistreatment by managers.

12 Sep 2011

Cairo strike: Drivers join shutdown of university


Students at the American University in Cairo (AUC) began a strike yesterday, objecting to a rise in tuition fees. Workers demanding higher wages joined the students. University security workers, cleaning workers, staff and students, took part in a demonstration at 1 pm on Sunday. The demonstrators chanted, “Our university is a university of thieves”.
University bus drivers joined the strike to complain about salaries that do not exceed LE850 per month and working hours that can be up to 16 hours a day without overtime pay. Security workers also joined the strike to demand higher wages, an hour break and risk compensation pay. There are also complaints that many temporary workers are not having their contracts renewed.
The Facebook page promoting the strike claims the university wastes money by unevenly distributing money, as some faculty members are paid very high salaries whilst other employees and workers are poorly paid. The page argues that tuition fees constitute only 30% of AUC’s budget, so their reduction should not affect workers’ wages, which the students demand should be increased.
The group which initially called for the strike encouraged students to organise a sit-in during the first week of classes and protest in front of the administration building, as they did on Sunday, only pay the first instalment of fees, not attend classes, encourage professors to join the strike, and refuse to talk or negotiate with the administration until their demands are met.
Students have erected tents on campus in preparation for an open-ended strike and released a statement stressing they are part of the Egyptian movement and the national student movement. The Egyptian Student Union has declared solidarity with the strike. 
Photos by Gigi Ibrahim at:

8 Sep 2011

Go-Ahead profits rise 11 percent

The rising cost of driving will continue to shift Britons from roads to public transport, said bus and train operator Go-Ahead Group, as it reported strong profit growth in the year to July.
David Brown, the company’s new chief executive, argued the move away from car travel was a long-term trend, pointing to reports showing fewer young people taking driving tests and research suggesting the cost of running a car was a fifth higher today than three years ago.
That proved a boon to his company’s businesses, pushing up passenger numbers 2.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis in the non-London bus business and 4.2 per cent in rail.
Go-Ahead reported an 11 per cent jump in underlying pre-tax profits to £97.6m, helped by £13m in non-recurring cost-cuts, on revenues that were 6 per cent higher, at £2.3bn.

Bob Crow attacks Isle of Wight experiment

Wight Bus service had been due to be closed at the end of August as part of a £280,000 transport cuts package rammed through by the Conservative-led authority. But now they have found the money to set up a volunteer “Big Society” operation under the umbrella of Southern Vectis.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “We have no doubt that the Isle of Wight has been chosen in a deeply suspect, cynical and opportunist fashion as a pilot for a Big Society drive to replace paid bus workers with unpaid volunteers.
“David Cameron has repeatedly denied that the Big Society is about dumping paid staff and replacing them with unpaid volunteers and yet that is exactly what is happening on the Isle of Wight buses in what we believe is nothing more than a testing ground for a policy ready for roll-out across the rest of the country.
“We know that bus services are under increasing attack from ConDem austerity cuts the length and breadth of the country and we now have the clearest evidence that the Big Society will be used as a battering ram to replace skilled and experienced staff with ad-hoc volunteers putting thousands of jobs at risk."
http://www.rmt.org.uk

Abdul Omer solidarity event

The campaign to reinstate Abdul Omer Mohsin is to hold a solidarity event to raise funds and awareness. Abdul Omer was sacked by Sovereign buses over a year ago. He was part of leading the London bus drivers’ campaign for equal pay—and was sacked for being an effective trade unionist.
The event is on Saturday 24 September, 4-7pm
@ Trellick Lounge Café, 11 Goldborne Road, London W10 5NY.
Phone 07920 403 766 for more details

Donations to Mr A.I. Omer, Barclays, account 20408859, sort code 20-69-15. 
Copies of Unite branch cheques should be sent to Peter Kavanagh, Unite, Woodberry, 218 Green Lanes, Finsbury Park, London N4 2HB. Email Abdul at omermohsin2@yahoo.co.uk

6 Sep 2011

Joburg strike enters fifth week with legal victory

Johannesburg, South Africa
Striking bus drivers have vowed not to back down after their employer, Piotrans, lost a second court bid to instruct them to return to work. The strike began on August 1, its key demands being an increase in drivers salaries from R5000 to R15000, plus medical aid and a provident fund.
The SAMWU union spokesperson Menzi Luthuli said the workers were in high spirits after the court ruling. “They are more united, they are saying they will not back down.” 
Luthuli said the workers were still open to negotiation with Piotrans.

"Volunteers" to drive buses on Isle of Wight

A trade union has criticised a scheme allowing volunteers to drive buses on rural routes on the Isle of Wight. The Wight Bus service had been due to end in August following cuts by the Conservative-led authority.
The new Heron Line, which has been set up with some council financial support, is expected to have a team of 60 volunteer drivers on nine routes. An RMT union spokesman said there had been little consultation and called the scheme "very, very worrying".
Regional organiser Peter Skelly said there had been insufficient consultation with the unions over issues such insurance cover in the event of an accident and where the revenue from the service would be going to. He added: "Bus companies up and down the country will be watching this to see what they can get away with. The only solution to this kind of problem is a publicly owned, publicly funded national bus corporation."
Island bus firm Southern Vectis has provided eight vehicles, fuel, maintenance, insurance and training for volunteer drivers. The council aimed to save £280,000 by stopping the Wight Bus services as part of its budget cuts.

31 Aug 2011

El Salvador drivers strike against extortion

At least two bus routes around San Salvador have been hit by drivers striking to demand that the authorities protect them from extortion demands by gangs.
According to El Salvador’s
La Prensa Grafica, the drivers of the 119 route from Chalatenango to San Salvador have all but stopped working for the last week, providing “irregular” service in order to draw attention to their cause. They were joined this week by drivers in Soyapango, a crime-laden municipality in the San Salvador area.
As is the case in much of Latin America, drivers are frequently targeted by gangs. In El Salvador this includes the MS-13, who regularly charge them “protection fees” on penalty of death or injury. 625 bus drivers have been killed since 2006, 29 of whom died in the first three months of 2011 alone. Extortion of buses and delivery trucks is a highly profitable venture for street gangs, because drivers generally carry their day’s earnings in cash on their persons.

Sovereign drivers to work longest hours in London

Drivers on Sovereign buses in London are preparing to fight back against management attacks. New rotas are due to be unilaterally imposed at the company’s Harrow depot this Saturday. They will squeeze drivers’ vital rest and recovery times. This includes meal breaks and shorter breaks between routes—to stretch, go to the toilet and have a drink.
In 2009 Sovereign drivers won a number of concessions over working hours from management through strikes. But management have been clawing back those gains ever since. The new rotas will mean that the firm’s drivers will work the longest hours with the least rest time across all London buses. Drivers’ Unite union reps were meeting management on Tuesday.

22 Aug 2011

Sovereign drivers reject pay offer

London
Drivers on Sovereign buses have voted by nearly 90 percent to reject a management pay offer. Bosses say their two-year pay deal is good for drivers. But it amounts to a pay cut.
Drivers would get a 2 percent increase in the first year and a 3.2 percent increase in the second. But the devil is in the detail.
“Management want to introduce a new rate for beginners,” Robert Laird, the rep at Edgware garage, told Socialist Worker. “It is unfair. They want to extend the probation period for new starters from six months to one year. And then in the second year they will still not get equal pay, but an ‘intermediary rate’.” New starters at Sovereign are already the lowest paid in London. 
The Unite union will now be organising mass meetings to discuss how to take the campaign forward.

Stagecoach hands £340m to shareholders

Stagecoach has risked the ire of passengers, green campaigners and trade unions with plans to return £340m to shareholders – including an £88m windfall for the brother and sister who founded the group.
Under the shareholder payout, worth 47p a share, Stagecoach's chief executive, Sir Brian Souter, will take away £51m and his sister, Ann Gloag, will earn just under £37m. The announcement comes just days after commuters learned that they faced the highest rises in rail fares since the industry was privatised in the mid-1990s.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT trade union, said: "If anyone wanted concrete evidence that transport franchising in the UK is a licence to print money, then here it is. This is a third of a billion pounds stripped out of transport services and dumped straight into the pockets of shareholders rather than reinvested in services." 
Revenues at the group's rail business grew by 8.4% in the three months to end July while turnover at Virgin Trains, which it co-owns with Sir Richard Branson, increased by 11.1%. 
Last year Stagecoach's rail division, comprised of its two wholly owned franchises, made an operating profit of £48.4m. However, its buses are Stagecoach's biggest profit driver, delivering an operating profit of £153.1m.
http://www.guardian.co.uk

12 Aug 2011

Row breaks out over Souter's peerage

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond is at the centre of a row over the SNP Government nominating the party’s biggest donor for a knighthood. Government officials recommended an honour for controversial bus tycoon Brian Souter weeks before he poured £500,000 into SNP coffers. However, a spokesman for Salmond last night insisted there was no ministerial involvement in the nomination process. But a Westminster civil servant has stated in writing that the nomination of Brian Souter “came from the Scottish Government”.

8 Aug 2011

Strike hits prestigious train route

South Africa
Less than a week after the much anticipated Gautrain Pretoria to Johannesburg route was launched, Gautrain feeder service bus drivers are about to embark on a strike today.
Shop steward Vusi Ngobeni said the reason for embarking on a strike was low salaries and poor working conditions. “We have to arrive at our work stations by 4am and most of the drivers don’t have transport to get to work that early. When we asked the company for transport we were told it was not up to them to provide workers with transport to get to work,” said Ngobeni.
He said drivers from other companies earned much better salaries compared to what they we getting. According to Ngobeni, drivers earn just R4600 (£405) per month and they do not get a transport allowance. “They have not included family members on our medical aid. They are cheating us out of our benefits,” said Ngobeni.
A bus driver who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of being victimised said the timing of the strike so soon after the launch of the service was meant to maximise impact as people had responded well to the route. “If we don’t use this opportunity our grievances won’t be heard. We apologise for disruption but we also have children to feed and we can’t do that on a salary of less than R5000,” said the driver.
http://www.thenewage.co.za

3 Aug 2011

Unite must throw weight behind Abdul Omer

The campaign to reinstate Abdul Omer Mohsin, the sacked Unite union convenor on Sovereign buses in London, has dragged on for more than a year. The situation has forced Abdul to publicly demand that Unite act in his defence.
The emotional and financial strain on Abdul is enormous. He faces eviction from his home as he cannot afford his mortgage payments.
And Abdul has been hospitalised three times in the past month, diagnosed with a serious heart condition linked to stress. Shockingly, the first hospitalisation came during a union Region Industrial Sector Committee (RISC) in June. Abdul, an elected committee member, was told that he could not raise his case as he is no longer a union member. He was denied travel expenses.
After the meeting, the Unite region sent Abdul a letter stating that his membership subscription was in arrears and he could lose all financial support from the union for his legal fees. This added enormously to his distress. Abdul was around £20 in arrears, not over £200 as claimed.
When Abdul was sacked, Unite argued that it was because of his union activity. It rejected management claims that he had intimidated a witness while representing a worker at a disciplinary hearing.
Unite praised Abdul as a leading militant. His face adorns union posters from the London pay campaign, which was launched with a protest outside Transport for London in 2007. 

Strikes and protests continued throughout 2008. Thousands of drivers took part. At its height the campaign saw drivers at First, Metroline and Metrobus set to strike together. But the threat of legal action saw the union call off the strikes. And they were never put back on. Despite this, in September 2009 drivers occupied Transport for London’s offices to demand centralised pay bargaining. Abdul led the occupation.
In October 2008, Abdul and other activists convinced drivers at Sovereign to reject an appalling pay offer. They voted by 98 percent for a strike ballot and struck in January 2009. But management undermined the union by making a pay offer to drivers individually, and the union, worried about division, suspended the action. Abdul fought hard to get the strikes reinstated.
It was in this context that Abdul was sacked. Sovereign management were desperate to break the drivers’ militancy—sacking Abdul was an opportunity to do so. But drivers wanted to fight. As recently as May, Sovereign drivers voted for a campaign to be launched in Abdul’s defence.
Drivers have rejected moves to elect a new convenor until Abdul’s case is resolved.
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said that Abdul had his “unequivocal support”. But Unite has failed to organise a ballot for action over his reinstatement. At different points there has been confusion over the direction of the campaign. Sometimes the Unite officers handling it have disagreed sharply with Abdul over the way forward. This is bound to happen in a difficult situation where the sacked worker is under enormous strain. But no matter what the disagreements in the past, Abdul deserves support from his union—and the union needs militants like Abdul.
Bus drivers in the capital face serious attacks on their pay and conditions. If Sovereign succeeds in sacking a well-known activist it sends a message to other groups of workers. “I want to be fighting the Sovereign managers who sacked me, not my trade union,” Abdul told Socialist Worker. “There is so much to fight for—I want to be part of that, but that means getting my job back.”
Abdul wants a ballot for his reinstatement, if there is a serious campaign to win it. “We need to put pressure on the company,” he added. “The last year has been incredibly stressful. But if we make my case public we can show that the company has behaved disgracefully. I think we can win. This will mean running a vigorous campaign.”
The London-wide action in 2008 showed that bus drivers are powerful. With the Olympics on the horizon, they are in a strong position to fight management attacks. A campaign uniting bus workers across the capital could turn back the employers’ attacks. Defending Abdul must be a priority for Unite if it is to show the bosses that it means business.


Donations payable to Mr A.I. Omer, Barclays, account 20408859, sort code 20-69-15. 

Copies of Unite branch cheques should be sent to Peter Kavanagh as the union has promised to match donations: Unite, Woodberry, 218 Green Lanes, Finsbury Park, London N4 2HB.

Solidarity messages and donation pledges to Abdul at omermohsin2@yahoo.co.uk

25 Jul 2011

Bognor and Chichester strike called off

A strike planned by Stagecoach drivers this week in Chichester and Bognor Regis has been called off. A ballot fell in favour of accepting a pay offer for drivers and back office staff at the weekend.
Drivers in the area were set to strike tomorrow, Thursday 28 July, and Saturday 30 July, but it was called off after the Unite union reached an agreement. An employee who did not want to be named said there was to be a protest march through the streets of Chichester on Thursday.

20 Jul 2011

Souter's bulging wallet

Stagecoach co-founder and chief executive Sir Brian Souter has seen a double-digit increase in his pay package following a strong year for the Perth-based transport group.
Although his salary only edged up by £11,000 to £564,000, Souter saw the cash and shares bonus payment he received rise by £66,000 to £258,000, according to the company's latest annual report. Together with benefits his total pay package rose to £844,000, an increase of almost 11 per cent on the £762,000 he received the previous year.
But with Souter owning around 15 per cent of the company, his salary package is a relatively small part of his income. Following a 9 per cent hike in the full-year dividend payment, Souter will receive more than £7.7 million in dividend payments.
Stagecoach's performance last year was boosted by increased use of public transport with commuters leaving cars at home because of high fuel prices. Pre-tax profits rose by 27.5 per cent to £205.7m in the year to 30 April with group turnover rising by 10 per cent rise to £2.4 billion, boosted by growth at home and abroad.
The regional UK bus division - which operates services in Aberdeen, Fife and the Highlands as well as several cities south of the Border - saw sales growth of 2.1 per cent to £893.6m. Operating profits rose 21 per cent to £153.1m.

FirstGroup revolt over CEO payout

Tim O'Toole, the chief executive of FirstGroup, suffered a rare public rebuke last Friday after 42% of shareholders voted against his remuneration package.
A bloc of shareholders took exception to a "retention" share award of nearly 215,000 shares. The award, worth around £760,000 at Friday's share price, will be triggered if O'Toole is still at the helm or is not working his notice on 1 November 2013. O'Toole earned a total of £591,000 last year, excluding a housing allowance of £138,000.
FirstGroup shares rose 8.18% to 356p on Friday as the transport operator said sales in its rail business rose 8.5% in the three months to 30 June and its bus division saw a 0.7% rise in like-for-like sales.

19 Jul 2011

Unite leader paid £500,000 'golden goodbye'

Britain's largest trade union, Unite, is facing a "golden goodbye" pay row after its former leader Derek Simpson was paid more than £500,000 last year, including a £361,000 severance payment. Simpson received £510,659, the bulk comprising of £361,347 in severance pay. He also received £97,677 in gross salary, and more than £51,000 in housing benefit and car allowances.
Simpson's colleague and joint general secretary, Tony Woodley, did not receive a payoff and was paid a total of £136,289. He is still employed by Unite on £20,000 a year.
Simpson and Woodley's successor, Len McCluskey, said he was shocked by the payment. But he stressed that Simpson's payoff was drawn up under the financial system used by the Amicus union, which merged with the T&G in 2007 to form Unite. McCluskey said there would be no similar payments under his regime, but the union was powerless to intervene in Simpson's case. "It is inappropriate but there is little that I can do about it. There will be no such agreements in Unite going forward."
According to Unite's annual return for 2010, the union generated an income of £141.6m last year but spent £171.9m, pushing the union into a deficit of £30.2m.
http://www.guardian.co.uk

18 Jul 2011

Plymouth First drivers vote for action

Over 100 Plymouth First bus drivers have voted for industrial action over management scrapping the staff bus. Workers in the RMT union voted for action that may include a strike and an overtime ban.
The staff bus drops workers at its Chelson Meadow depot at 6.02am, Monday to Saturday. Bosses claim the bus is under-used and uneconomical, but the workers’ RMT union say it is the “axing of essential staff transport”. The service was set up before the firm was privatised.

7 Jul 2011

Arriva flies British strikebreakers to Malta

Arriva took over the Maltese bus network on Sunday, but were immediately plunged into chaos by an unofficial strike of at least 60 drivers. The drivers expressed their fury that despite signing an agreement to work a straight eight-hour shift, they were presented with a roster that includes split shifts running from 11am to 11.30pm with a four-hour break in between.
Many drivers refused to work the proposed shifts in spite of an agreement reached between the General Workers’ Union (GWU), which represents 480 bus drivers, and Arriva. Without the backing of their union, bus drivers congregated at 5am on Sunday, to try and stop the new fleet from taking off.
Twanny Cassar, who was chosen by those present to speak on their behalf, insisted the GWU had failed to inform them of the agreement reached with Arriva and it had forged ahead without consulting them, something the union denies. Mr Cassar said the only way drivers would agree to work a split shift was if they were paid €350 a week and not the paltry €245 a week they were being offered. “We were told that if we don’t like it we can return our uniform and leave. But we will fight this and if not we will go and register (for work, at the unemployment office). We cannot stand by and be ridiculed,” he said to loud cheers from fellow drivers.
Transport Minister Austin Gatt was in bullish mood, telling the workers “The days when you dictated what happened in public transport are over... a new service [is starting] with new conditions. Those who don’t like these conditions can choose not to not turn up for work and I hope they will be fired,” he said.
Arriva Malta responded to the strike by flying in 55 British drivers to fill the gaps in its service. But they don't speak the language, and don't know the routes.
This report has been compiled from several sources, principally the Times of Malta:
http://www.timesofmalta.com

29 Jun 2011

Stagecoach profits up 61 percent

The soaring price of petrol and greater road congestion have encouraged more North American motorists to opt for coach transport, boosting revenue and profit at Stagecoach.
The London-listed bus and rail operator, which provides budget coach transport in the US and Canada through its Megabus operations, said revenues from its bus operations in the region rose by 8 per cent in the year to the end of April, to $529.4m. 
Total group revenues rose from £2.2bn to £2.4bn, while pre-tax profit jumped 61 per cent to £209.7m.
The Perth-based company said travellers’ reluctance to use their cars had also benefited the group’s UK rail business, which includes the South West Trains franchise, where sales grew 4.2 per cent in the last financial year. At Virgin Rail, in which Stagecoach holds a 49 per cent stake, sales increased by 10.5 per cent over the year.
Stagecoach said like-for-like sales at its UK bus division rose 2.1 per cent to £896.3m during the year. With a 14 per cent share of the total UK bus market, Stagecoach operates about 7,000 buses in the country, covering roughly 100 towns and cities including Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Hull, and Sheffield.
http://www.ft.com

22 Jun 2011

Stagecoach aim to close Upton Park depot

Stagecoach bosses are threatening to shut down Upton Park bus depot in east London. Adam Powell, a Unite union rep at the depot, told Socialist Worker, “They are going to move us to the new West Ham depot to cut costs. “But we have found out that the only route not being transferred to West Ham is the route all the reps drive... So to many people this seems like an attempt to smash our union.”
The West Ham depot houses around 500 drivers. The addition of a further 300 from Upton Park would make it a powerful workplace. Upton Park has a reputation for being a militant depot. The last thing management wants is for militants to be based there.
“Management have said there will be no compulsory redundancies, but people are worried,” said Adam. "It will take some of us longer to travel to work and will be more expensive. There is nowhere for us to park our cars, which is important for people working on a late shift.”
Workers are also worried about meal breaks. Current routes are close to the depot, so workers can get back to eat. Now they will be forced to stop at remote locations, even the roadside. A mass meeting organised by the Unite was being held to discuss the closure as Socialist Worker went to press.

21 Jun 2011

Isle of Man: drivers vote for strike

Bus drivers in the Isle of Man have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a row with the Manx government about hours and working conditions. This comes as the service is being prepared for privatisation. Unite says almost four out of five drivers backed industrial action.

20 Jun 2011

Dublin protest over bus cuts

Campaigners against cutbacks to Dublin Bus services staged a protest outside the group's headquarters in O’Connell Street on Saturday. The protest, co-ordinated by the Save Our Bus Services campaign, is designed to highlight the affects of the cuts in public transport services on the most vulnerable communities in the city. More than 100 people turned out, chanting: "No ifs, no buts, no Dublin Bus cuts."
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said people were becoming prisoners in their own homes as a result of the cutbacks. "These attacks are an attack on the old, the less well off and the vulnerable, he said, adding "they're taking out routes that go into estates and to outlying areas...we think this is preparation for privatisation".

Forsythe locks out strikers

Virginia, USA
A week-long Arlington Transit strike took a bizarre turn Friday. Union leader Charles Smith declared the strike would be over at 2 p.m., but shortly after accused Forsythe Transportation of locking-out employees who had been on strike.
Bill Forsythe, chief executive of the company that bears his name, said no one was locked out – but the 21 employees who participated in the strike remained under suspension pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Arlington County is in the process of renewing its annual contract with Forsythe Transportation. 

Souter gets a feudal title

Transport tycoon Brian Souter has been given a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. The founder of Perth-based Stagecoach is being recognised for his services to transport and the voluntary sector. He founded the Stagecoach group with his sister Ann Gloag in 1980. The firm is now one of the world's biggest transport companies.
In 2000 Mr Souter was the leader of the Keep the Clause campaign, fighting the lifting of Section 28 which banned teachers and pupils from discussing homosexuality in schools. He is also a major financial backer of the SNP.

16 Jun 2011

Dundee drivers balloted on further strikes

Unite has written to its members at National Express Dundee informing them of a ballot for possible industrial action. The letter, signed by regional officers Dougie Maguire and Colin Coupar, attacks the bus company for putting drivers' terms and conditions of employment "under threat" and says agreements and procedures were "ignored and abused."
Workers walked out for an unofficial wildcat strike last month— an action described as "regrettable" in the letter, which then goes on to criticise National Express for the way it handled the disciplinary hearings that followed. Specifically, the fact there has been no resolution to the cases of union shop stewards Rab McKelvie and Alan Clark is described as "deliberate".
Members are asked to vote on whether or not they support a ballot for a full strike. The question reads, "Do you support the union in a move to a formal and legal ballot for lawful industrial action in furtherance of protecting your conditions of service and your branch officials?" The ballot will close on Friday, with the result announced on Monday.

Transport strike paralyses Prague

The union protest that started at midnight has paralysed public transport in Prague and the underground (metro) has been stopped for the first time ever. A mere 40 percent of trams and 20 percent of buses operated in the capital as of 5am.
Public transport has also been hit in the regional capitals of Brno, Olomouc, Usti and Labem. The strike was called in protest against the government´s proposed reforms of the pension, healthcare, welfare and tax systems. It has been organised by the Coalition of Transport Unions (KDOS) that encompasses 13 union branches. In Prague unions will march on the Finance Ministry and the Government Office where they plan to place straw bales.


Unions representing Prague city transit staff say the proposed reforms will do away with their annual travel pass, cancel meal tickets worth around Kč 10,080 a year, raise pension payments by an annual Kč 6,000 and wipe out another around 110 perks and benefits. Taxes on wages will rise from 15 percent to 19 percent, health insurance increase by 1 percentage point to 6.5 percent and value-added tax rise from 10 percent to 14 percent in 2012 and then to a single rate of 17.5 percent in 2013. In return, they say Kalousek is offering compensation of around Kč 3,000.
One high-profile victim of the strike is President Václav Klaus, who was forced to cancel a special reception for personalities and diplomats at his Prague Castle seat on Thursday to mark his 70th birthday. Klaus bitterly attacked the strike action and said strikers should be fired.
Historically, the strike looks like one of the biggest protest actions by workers in the Central European country since the end of communism in 1989. Czech unions are not usually prone to work stoppages or taking on the government head on.

15 Jun 2011

Striking against arrogant management

Virginia, USA
Dozens of Arlington County ART bus drivers struck on Monday to protest working conditions and sexual harassment from Forsythe Transportation. They lashed out at what they called "arrogant, arbitrary" management.
They protested outside Forsythe headquarters from around 4.30am until well into the afternoon. Forsythe warned the workers they would be fired if they did not return to work by noon, and in the afternoon terminated all but a few who returned. He subsequently backed off, and said they'd only been suspended, pending an investigation. The union says the strike will continue at least until Friday.
"Sometimes you get pushed to the point you just have to stand up," bus driver William Alston said. "It's been an accumulation of things." Union spokesman Charles Smith said Forsythe management sexually harassed employees, switched drivers' schedules unfairly, didn't pay enough and refused drivers bathroom breaks. The strike was ignited when the company sent home union leader and employee Patricia Blowe for wearing a union button on Thursday and fired her the next day, Smith said.
http://washingtonexaminer.com