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.
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."

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.