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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

17 Nov 2011

Maltese government deems strike illegal

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.

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 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