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.

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.

13 Jun 2011

Release of Mansour Osanloo is only temporary

Despite earlier statements by prison authorities about his release, Mansour Osanloo, president of the Iranian independent bus union (Sherkat-e Vahed), is only on a short leave of abscence from prison.
His sister, 
Fereshteh Osanlu, said “We thought he was released but then they told us he has just come on furlough, and he must return to prison after the [June national] holidays.” 
Mansour was arrested by security forces on 10 July, 2007 near his house and was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “acting against national security,” and “propagating against the regime. 
With just a few months left until completion of his prison term, Osanloo’s doctors have repeatedly diagnosed him as incapable of serving the remainder of his prison term due to his heart disease. He has been hospitalized several times as a result of clogged arteries.

Czech strike postponed, but very popular

Unions have postponed a nationwide 24-hour transport strike in protest against the government's reform plans until Thursday, June 16, the Czech News Agency (ČTK) reported. The strike was to have taken place today, but Prague Municipal Court banned the protest, ruling organizers had failed to give necessary advance warning of three working days. 
A snap poll for Czech Television found 58 percent of Czechs support the strike, and 40 percent even agree with threatened blockades of major highways.

10 Jun 2011

Czech transport workers take on government

Prague public transport workers have called a strike for Monday in protest at government reforms which could spread into a nationwide protest. Prague’s tram, metro and bus workers will be striking against the center-right government’s raft of tax, pension, health and social security reforms. Unions made the announcement of the strike from 3 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday on their website, Dp-arena.cz. They said they were sick of negotiating for months with a government that was not prepared to listen to their views.
“Will you get a new job if you are sacked when you are 60 years old? And if you can’t get a job, how do you think you will live following the demands concerning early and radically cut pension payments?” the unions said in a statement, adding that social conflict was now unavoidable.
The Czech news server iDnes.cz reported that transport workers in the country’s second-largest city, Brno, has also come out favor of a strike on Monday but that other transit staff around the country were postponing a decision until the results of further government talks became clear.

6 Jun 2011

Arriva close Skelmersdale depot

More than 120 jobs are in jeopardy in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, after Arriva confirmed it was closing the Stamford Road site. Bosses blamed the loss of some work and said they had reviewed overheads. A company spokesman said: “Following detailed consultation with representatives from the Union Unite, the proposal to close the depot has now been confirmed... discussions continue regarding staff redeployment.”

3 Jun 2011

Iranian bus union leader freed

Mansour Osanloo, the Iranian bus union leader, was set free yesterday after almost fours years of imprisonment in Iran. His release is reportedly conditional on his “good behaviour” and the payment of a bond. 
Osanloo is the president and one of the founding members of the Vahed Syndicate, a free trade union representing Tehran's bus workers. In 2007, Osanloo was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on charges of “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the state”. In 2010 another year was added to his sentence.
Other people remain in jail for the same ‘crime’ of wanting to join a trade union. They include Mansour’s colleagues, Reza Shahabi and Ebrahim Madadi.