24 Dec 2012

Jersey drivers to strike on 30 December

Drivers have voted to strike over changes to their terms and conditions when a new operator starts. Unite balloted 82% of the workforce and 87% of those balloted voted in favour of strike action. The union confirmed that drivers would strike for one day on 30 December.
CT Plus is taking over Jersey's bus contract from 2 January 2013. Connex have run the service for the last 10 years. Drivers say they are unhappy with the terms and conditions in their new contracts.
A driver, who did not want to be named, said some of them would lose at least £100 a week as a result of limits on working hours. The States of Jersey imposed a 54-hour week limit for drivers for health and safety reasons. This will be the second strike over the change. The first was for two days in October.

Isle of Man: drivers strike for 72 hours

Bus drivers manned picket lines at depots in Douglas, Ramsey and Port Erin during a three-day strike that ended on Saturday.
Six official pickets plus a dozen or more supporters were at the entrance to the Banks Circus depot in Douglas from the early hours - and claimed they had managed to stop four or five buses crossing the picket line. 

In the south, Castle Rushen High School students enjoyed the novelty of taking the steam train to school, alighting at a temporary halt specially built at School Hill. 
But elsewhere there were reports that the public transport division’s contingency measures were not going quite to plan, with some students and commuters left waiting at bus stops.

Public support
Eric Holmes, regional officer of Unite, said he was ‘extremely pleased’ with the turn-out on the picket lines. He said members of the public had shown their support by offering food and sweets to drivers.
Mr Holmes described the contingency measure as ‘pathetic’. ‘If they are doing it just to make a point, they’ve failed,’ he said. ‘This just shows how vital the service is and they should not be attacking people like this, they should not be taking people’s money off them... You can’t just attack people and not expect them to fight back. People have said “enough is enough”.’

14 Dec 2012

First Aberdeen workers vote to accept new offer

Unite members at First Aberdeen have voted to accept a new pay offer and avert strike action during the festive period. The union balloted their Aberdeen bus drivers, cleaners and other ancillary staff following two days of negotiations earlier this week. The result of the ballot showed 80% of staff were in favour of the new deal.
Strikes had been called on December 15, 18, 20, 22, 27, 29 and 31, following an overwhelming vote for industrial action by their members last week. However, after protracted discussions between union officials and First Aberdeen management, the latter drafted a revised offer, amounting to a 3% rise for this year and next year, backdated to last April. The union also gained a guarantee from the company that there will be no changes to the terms and conditions of employees for at least the next five years.

Isle of Man: three strike dates named

Bus drivers on the Isle of Man have delivered an overwhelming vote for action. They are due to strike on December 20, 21 and 22. However, their union Unite remains in talks with the operator. 79 ballot papers were returned, with 71 in favour of strikes and eight against.
The long-running dispute is over an atttack on terms and conditions. The Manx government is out to slash £300,000 a year from the budget, and plans to do this largely by scrapping drivers’ paid lunch breaks – which would cut about £3,000 from their average annual pay.

13 Dec 2012

First Aberdeen strike cancelled after new pay offer

First Aberdeen have put a new pay offer on the table to their staff, at the end of protracted discussions between the company and the Unite union on Wednesday.
Following the talks, the company has made what it describes as "a revised offer, consisting of new money, not related to any potential changes in shift patterns or terms and conditions." A strike which had been scheduled for Saturday, December 15, has already been cancelled. Industrial action was also planned for December 18, 20, 22, 27, 29 and 31. Bus workers are voting on the revised offer today. The results of the ballot are expected to be confirmed around 4.30pm tomorrow.

11 Dec 2012

First Aberdeen: more detail on the dispute

Angry bus drivers and cleaners at First Aberdeen voted nine-to-one for strike action on Friday against a penny-pinching deal which would force them to fund their own pay rise.
First Aberdeen Unite branch secretary Mike Flynn said he was "well chuffed" with the ballot result. "This company is making a profit and all we want is a share in that profit," he said. "Our members are angry because First Aberdeen wants to make them self-finance their own pay deal. Their 1 per cent offer isn't even worth a half of that, because they refused to backdate it to the start of the pay period in April... and then they want us to give up between 10 minutes and half an hour of overtime pay every day in order to finance the rest."
First Aberdeen has rejected a 5 per cent pay claim from Unite, similar to that agreed for mechanics and other staff. Unite organiser Tommy Campbell said: "The company is completely out of touch with the workers. They should stop being greedy Scrooges and make their staff a reasonable pay offer." A series of strikes in the run-up to Christmas will kick off with a 24-hour stoppage on Saturday December 15. This will be followed by rush-hour strikes between 7am and 9am on December 18 and 19.

A First Aberdeen driver who posted to this blog wrote "the offer was not back dated and it has massive strings attached, meaning we have to give up more than we stand to gain! Not so much to do with a wage increase – more the threatened loss of working conditions."

10 Dec 2012

Singapore: Solidarity meeting for strikers

A public meeting was organised on Saturday in support of the recent strike by Chinese migrant workers at the SMRT public transport company. It was held under the title "The SMRT Strike – Why should we care?" and organisers were overwhelmed by the response – the meeting was packed out. It was hosted by the ThinkCentre, a campaign group "for a vibrant political society" which does a lot of work on human rights and workers rights.

7 Dec 2012

Jersey: strike ballot begins

Bus drivers in Jersey say they could strike before the end of the month over changes to their terms and conditions. Unite says it will send out a postal ballot in the next few days that will run for two weeks.
CT Plus is taking over Jersey's bus contract from 2 January and is re-employing drivers from Connex who have run the service for 10 years. Drivers say they are unhappy with terms and conditions in their new contracts. Drivers went on strike on 8 October for two days over the same proposed changes to terms and conditions.

Singapore: unrest spreads to contruction workers

Singapore has detained two Chinese construction workers who staged a protest on top of cranes over unpaid wages. The two could face jail time, police confirmed to Bikyamasr.com on Friday.
The pair had climbed up two 10-storey high cranes to highlight their demand for payment of back wages before their return home. Rescuers got the men down after more than four hours of negotiations and they were arrested soon after. “The two men were arrested for unlawfully remaining at the place and intentionally causing alarm. They can expect to face imprisonment, fine or both upon conviction,” a police statement said.
The crane protest comes ten days after Chinese bus drivers staged a wildcat strike – Singapore’s first strike since 1986.

Singapore urged to drop charges against strikers

A human rights group wants Singapore to drop the charges against four Chinese bus drivers accused of instigating a strike at transport firm SMRT. They were charged after 171 drivers, all of whom were recruited from China, struck over low pay and discrimination.
Singapore has already jailed one bus driver for six weeks and deported 29 others for staging the strike. Strikes are illegal in Singapore for workers in essential services, unless the employer is given 14 days' notice.
However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that none of the conditions for a sector to be deemed essential "can reasonably apply to the situation of the Chinese bus drivers in Singapore".

A year in jail
If convicted, the four drivers face a maximum fine of SG2,000 Singapore dollars (£1,000) as well as the possibility of up to a year in jail. The Chinese drivers who took part in the strike say they are being paid significantly less than drivers of other nationalities and that their company-provided accommodation - which HRW says the drivers paid for - is poor and unhygienic.
The drivers appeared in court on Thursday and were granted bail. Bail was set at SG$10,000 for three of them, and at SG$20,000 for one driver who faces an extra charge for posting a comment on a Chinese social networking site urging other to join the strike.

The workers told the judge that they were not able to raise the bail money. However, it was raised by their supporters within 24 hours. It was not immediately clear who paid the bail, but some of the staff of local humanitarian organizations said they would bail out the workers personally.

Strike dates for First Aberdeen dispute

A 90% vote in favour of strike action in the First Aberdeen pay dispute has been announced. Staff, including drivers and cleaners, were asked if they were prepared to take part in action over low pay. Unite said 206 of the 227 valid votes - 90.7% - voted yes, with 21 against. The company had offered a backdated one per cent pay increase.

First Aberdeen workers are set to stage two weeks of industrial action. Staff at First Aberdeen are expected to walk out on Saturday 15 December, and the following Saturday over a pay dispute. According to one source, the last Saturday of the year will also be targeted along with Hogmanay, and rush-hour strikes are also planned on two days through each week.

3 Dec 2012

Singapore: strike leader jailed

Singapore has jailed one Chinese bus driver for six weeks and deported 29 others for staging the country's first strike in 26 years. Bao Feng Shan, 38, pleaded guilty to his role in a walkout last week by 171 bus drivers recruited from China over pay and living conditions. The incident has thrown scrutiny on the city-state's policies on foreign, low-skilled labour. Beijing has said it is concerned about the arrest of its nationals.
Aside from Bao, four others are facing criminal charges under laws that prohibit workers from initiating, continuing or participating in illegal strikes. They are expected to make court appearances on Thursday, local media reported. The driver "pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment", a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers was quoted as saying by the Agence-France Presse news agency.
The 29 other drivers who remain unidentified had their work permits revoked and were deported from Singapore on Sunday. Strikes are illegal in Singapore for workers in essential services, unless the employer is given 14 days notice. The strike, which involved drivers for state-controlled transport company SMRT, was the first major labour action in the city state since 1986.

Bao Feng Shan was not represented by a lawyer. He was charged under Section 9 (1) of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. He could have faced a prison term of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $2,000. Deputy Public Prosecutor, Peggy Pao-Keerthi Pei Yu, had asked the Court for a six-week prison sentence for Bao, noting that he was "far from a mere passive participant" and had been uncooperative.

The dispute, though involving a relatively small number of workers, has had a massive impact. It has been picked up by news media around the world, because of the rarity of strikes in Singapore.
It's interesting to note that the Prosecutor in this case only demanded a six week sentence for Bao Feng Shan, even though a sentence for the 'offence' can be up to a year. It seems likely that – with one eye on the increasingly militant Chinese working class on whom they rely for a lot of their migrant labour – the authorities in Singapore felt it would be counterproductive.

29 Nov 2012

Arriva London North strike: drivers speak out

Over 40 striking bus workers picketed Stamford Hill bus garage in north London today (Thursday). The Unite union members have not had a pay rise in two years and want a 2.5 percent wage increase  The strike is not just about money but also against bullying bosses. One driver told Socialist Worker, “If you even forget to sign your check sheet or touch your mirror against something, you get a caution. If you get three cautions in two years, they sack you.” 

'We're never at ease'
Another driver added, “Everything is made out to be our fault. If there’s an accident, even if the police say the driver was not at fault we still get punished. “We’re never at ease. We work with fear at the back of our minds. We need to strike until they give us something acceptable.”  

One driver pointed out that it takes seven years to be paid the experienced driver rate, adding “I’ve been driving for eight years and I earned more then than I do now. “We’re taking a stand, but there’s no point in doing it just once—we’ll have to strike again.”  
The 24 hour strike by bus workers affects Arriva garages across north London. It was sparked by a decision by Arriva to refuse workers a pay rise this year—despite bumper profits.

Video: Arriva striker puts their case

28 Nov 2012

Analysis of Singapore bus strike

From Reuters
This week's walkout in Singapore by dozens of mainland Chinese bus drivers over disparities in pay would have been considered small, calm and short-lived in almost any other nation. But the strike, in breach of the law and mostly over by Wednesday, was the first significant industrial action in the tightly regulated Asian financial centre in more than 25 years.
For the first two days of this week, buses ran late and crowded in a city that prides itself on efficiency, leading to complaints from customers. After a tough election last year, the strike highlights challenges for the long-ruling government of the majority ethnic Chinese island as it tries to defuse anger over an influx of immigrants while discouraging labour unrest that could hurt investment.

Migrant workers strike back
The action by the drivers from China, over complaints they are paid less than Singaporean and Malaysian peers, also underlines the treatment of lower-skilled foreign workers who are vital to the construction, hospitality and transport sectors in the wealthy city-state.
"There's a danger in becoming too emotional about it," said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Chua Hak Bin. "Not many Singaporeans want to work as bus drivers at this kind of wage levels. You need foreign workers to fill the gap." Chua said companies would have to get used to higher wage demands by lower-skilled foreign workers, given the much larger salary increases in countries such as China.
In the case of SMRT Corp Ltd, one of two bus companies that operate in Singapore, Chinese nationals account for about 450 of the 2,000 or so drivers on its payroll. Kit Wei Zheng, an economist at Citigroup, said more labour disputes could emerge given developments in the region. "Globally and regionally, there is greater labour activism taking place," he said. "In China, you have seen more assertive industrial action so, in hindsight, it was not surprising that some of these pressures reached Singapore's shores."

An island of millionaires
As a global financial centre with the world's highest concentration of millionaires, Singapore is awash with flashy cars, pricey shops and fancy restaurants that epitomise the wealth of foreign and domestic businesspeople and bankers. But much of the vitriol against immigrants - about stealing jobs, pushing up housing costs and crowding public transport - is directed at the most visible, those who do the tough and dirty work and are among the lowest paid.
Singapore, which saw its last major industrial action in 1986 at an American oilfield equipment firm, has no minimum wage and prohibits workers in public transport and other essential services from going on strike without giving notice of 14 days. In taking action that Tan, the acting manpower minister, said "clearly crossed the line", 171 Chinese drivers did not show up for work on Monday and 88 did not report on Tuesday.

Chinese embassy intervenes to end strike
Most of them returned to duty on Wednesday after officials from the Chinese embassy spoke with them late on Tuesday. Tan said his ministry expected SMRT, controlled by powerful state investor Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd, to address the grievances but that the government had "zero tolerance for such unlawful action".
The National Trades Union Congress, which does not represent the Chinese drivers, said "any action that is illegal must and will be dealt with firmly, regardless of whether the workers are local or foreign".

An attack on pay
The drivers complain SMRT switched them to a six-day week with slightly higher pay from a five-day week that had allowed them to earn more by doing overtime. One driver told the Lianhe Wanbao newspaper he now was paid S$1,400 a month, lower than the S$2,000 he used to be able to make with overtime on days off. The Chinese are also angry about getting less than Singaporean and Malaysian drivers.
Bus drivers, whether Chinese or Singaporean, are not highly paid in a country where the 2011 median monthly salary was about S$3,250 for citizens and permanent residents. Foreign maids and nannies - most of them from Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar - do even worse, getting as little as S$500 a month.

Strike at Arriva London North over low pay

Thousands of bus workers in North London are due to strike tomorrow against poverty pay and attacks on terms and conditions. Strike action had initially been suspended for negotiations. But while management may have backed off from imposing changes on conditions they have refused to concede a pay rise and are once again asking workers to accept a “lump sum” payment.
Unite say that if the situation doesn’t change by 2013 then Arriva London North workers will have received no pay rise in 3 out of the 5 years from 2008, and been given 2 percent (less than inflation) twice. All this has been done in the name of keeping the company “competitive”. That’s what workers are being told across the bus industry and across Britain in general. Bosses and the government are telling us these are tough times and we all have to tighten our belts.

But its workers who get all the pain while the shareholders keep raking in the profits. In the first half of 2012 Arriva’s parent company, Deutsche Bahn, had operating profits of £1 billion. So maybe they can afford a few quid for a decent pay rise!
Despite negotiations and the union allowing a “cooling off period” the employers haven’t moved on a pay increase. Well, now is the time to make them move.Bus operators always insist right up to the last moment they can’t move on pay – and then they suddenly ‘find’ extra money down the back of the sofa – if workers apply enough pressure.

Olympic bonus
Remember that during the lead up to strikes over the London Olympic bonus earlier this year the bus operators, Transport for London and Boris Johnson all said the money wasn’t there. But once the strikes started they soon changed their minds. The action was so successful that many drivers believed a lot more could have been won.
Arriva London North workers do have the power to win this fight. But to make that happen, the union has to be prepared to escalate the strike action if the employers don’t shift.

27 Nov 2012

Singapore: first strike in 26 years continues

About 60 bus drivers in Singapore stayed off work today, the second day of a stoppage in the island. State transport firm SMRT said that of the 102 who refused to work yesterday over a pay dispute, 60 did not turn up today despite an agreement.
The drivers, all from mainland China, refused to board a shuttle bus from their dormitory to a nearby depot. One of them, who declined to be named, said they felt aggrieved over a disparity in pay between Chinese and Malaysian drivers.
SMRT is 54 percent owned by state investment firm Temasek Holdings. Singapore has been hiring bus drivers from China and Malaysia because of a chronic shortage of manpower. Strikes and other forms of industrial action are rare in Singapore. The labor movement works closely with the government and private business. According to local media, the last strike in Singapore was in 1986!

26 Nov 2012

Singapore: Riot police called in to control strike

Riot police were called in to control a strike by some 102 bus drivers earlier today. The workers from SMRT Corporation did not picket, but staged the strike at their dormitory in Woodlands instead. According to Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News, the drivers, who are all Chinese nationals, were unhappy about perceived discrimination in a recent pay raise. Malaysian drivers at the company reportedly got a $275 increment and a month's bonus, while Chinese nationals were only paid $75 extra without any bonus.

Isle of Man: strike ballot begins

Some 100 Bus Vannin drivers are voting on whether to strike over increased driving time and the reduction of contractual hours from 42 to 37. The ballot will run from 28 November to 12 December. It’s the latest move in a dispute over changes to their terms and conditions which Unite says will cut drivers’ wages by about £3,000 a year.
Notices of termination of their existing contracts were issued to drivers on October 13. Since then, about a third have agreed to new terms and conditions which include an end to paid lunch breaks.

19 Nov 2012

First Aberdeen workers reject pay offer

The possibility of a Christmas bus strike in Aberdeen increased after workers rejected a revised pay offer from their employers last Thursday. The offer, details of which have not been made public, followed two days of talks with the conciliation service, ACAS. The long-running dispute involves drivers and cleaners, who are members of the Unite union. Around 400 workers are involved in the pay negotiations.

16 Nov 2012

First Devon and Cornwall hit again by strike action

Drivers at First Devon and Cornwall struck again on Thursday. The action by RMT members was over low pay, and follows a similar strike on 26 October. First had offered drivers a 1 per cent rise this year and a proposed 2.7 per cent hike next year in a deal which also tore up existing terms and conditions on sick pay and overtime.
Workers rejected that, and then rejected a revised offer which included a more generous price rise, claiming the company had deliberately dragged out negotiations so it could sidestep shelling out back pay.
General secretary Bob Crow said: "Yet again there's been rock solid support for the action... The company needs to understand the anger of our members over the penny-pinching approach they have taken. They need to get back round the table with our members and sort out a fair deal that enables us to resolve this."

8 Nov 2012

Georgia: drivers join strike wave

Tbilisi, Georgia
Drivers of the capital’s buses have joined a wave of strikes that have rocked Georgia since the parliamentary election in October. They walked out this morning, with 1,300 drivers out across Tblisi's three garages. They have issued a declaration with 17 demands. The main ones are for better working conditions and increased salaries, but they also include payment for work they did during the war in August 2008, when the city's buses were deployed to transport soldiers. The drivers have said this is only a warning strike – if their demands aren’t met they will move on to a much larger scale protest.

Other strikes
Yesterday, different groups of metal workers and miners held a rally at the parliament building in Kutaisi in western Georgia, demanding amendments to the labour code, which doesn’t give any rights to workers, but gives rights to their bosses. Meanwhile workers at the energy company Telasi also went on strike. Their main demand was to fire the commercial director of the company, who has resigned. However workers claim that the former director’s team is still on their posts. Two days ago, miners in the coal town Tkibuli went on strike. About 1,200 workers at the Saknakhshiri mining company protested outside the administrative building demanding an pay increase of 60 percent and holidays on the days defined by the constitution.

Alongside this industrial action, Georgia has been hit by a wave of protests and direct action – including people sewing their mouths shut and going on hunger strike, refugees and socially vulnerable people breaking into empty buildings demanding to be given a place to live, and disorder in several prisons.

7 Nov 2012

Devon and Cornwall strike postponed

First Devon and Cornwall workers in the RMT suspended a planned strike this week following a revised offer from the company. The union is demanding a substantial pay increase with no strings attached – and that all drivers be paid the same rate of pay for doing the same job.

26 Oct 2012

Devon and Cornwall strike hits hard

Drivers at First Devon and Cornwall walked out today, in the first of two strikes over low pay. The action was well supported, with some big picket lines (photo shows Plymouth garage). First has called in managers to drive buses on some routes, but they said most of their services will be disrupted or cancelled altogether.
A spokesperson for the RMT said drivers had "had enough" amid meagre pay rises and the removal of overtime. Phil Bialyk, regional organiser for the RMT South West, said the dispute had rumbled on since April. "We took a strike ballot and had a very clear mandate for strike action," he told The Herald. "Last-ditch attempts for talks floundered and our drivers felt enough was enough."

Drivers were unhappy with the offer of a one per cent pay rise this year – and a proposed 2.7 per cent pay hike next year, he said. But Mr Bialyk added: "The real sting in the tail is new contracts that are coming to light in Cornwall." He said First had proposed new deals which would see drivers' sick pay reduced – and overtime pay scrapped. "We would sometimes be expected to work 45 hours a week," Mr Bialyk continued.
Another strike is planned for 9 November and staff will not work any unscheduled overtime or on rest days on 11 and 17 November. First employs 675 people in Devon and Cornwall. Of the 300 who took part in the RMT ballot, 85% voted for strike action.

24 Oct 2012

Isle of Man: strike ballot over lay offs and pay cut

Bus drivers on the Isle of Man will be soon be balloting for strike action as the Manx government tries to slash drivers’ wages by up to £3,000 a year. Civil servants have instructed the employers, the government-owned Bus Vannin, to cut the budget for buses by £300,000, despite the fact that the self-governing Isle of Man is recession-free with an annual growth rate of four per cent.
After the drivers refused to accept the wage cut, the employer laid them off the week before last – and said they'd have to reapply for their jobs on the new contract. The wage cut takes the form of a removal of paid lunch breaks. The new contract would also increase maximum driving time from 3 hours 45 minutes to 4 hours 10 minutes. Up until this latest attack, the basic salary of drivers was about £24,300, but could be boosted by overtime.

Unite national officer Bobby Morton said: “Our members are realistic and are prepared for a fair negotiated settlement – Unite has even offered to go to binding arbitration with an independent third party chair, but that has been rejected out-of-hand by the intransigent employers.
“Our members feel that they have been targeted for pay cuts, while the civil servants at the government’s Department of Community, Culture and Leisure, who are the puppeteers behind this, recently had a pay increase."

Bolivia: strike against property seizure law

Bus workers in Bolivia walked out on a one-day strike yesterday. They were protesting against a proposed law that would allow the state to seize private property linked to illegal activities. In the capital La Paz bus services ground to a halt.
Franklin Duran of the Bolivian Drivers' Federation said the strike was being adhered to by 90% of drivers, except in the eastern province of Santa Cruz. He said the strike would be escalated unless the government drops the proposed law, which Duran said could expose unwitting bus and taxi drivers to loss of their vehicles if drug traffickers used them to get around.
Bolivia is South America's poorest nation. It is also thought to be the world's second-largest producer of cocaine, after Peru.

19 Oct 2012

Algeria: strikers win with militant action

Bus and tram workers employed by the Algiers Urban and Suburban Transport Enterprise (ETUSA) walked out on indefinite strike on Tuesday. They were demanding a minimum salary of 18,000 DA, the resignation of the director general of ETUSA – and even the resignation of the leader of their union, who they feel is in the pocket of management.
They returned to work on Wednesday afternoon, having won a significant pay rise, and the resignation of their union leader, Mr Boutebba. He was extremely unpopular, and workers reacted to his departure with joy. 2,000 union members had signed a petition demanding that he go. One striker said "This is a real victory for us – after we got rid of this rotten man we can move forward on all our demands."
Their pay rise takes their basic salary from 12,000 DA to 14,250 DA, backdated to May. Many strikers expressed scepticism over the new pay offer, and said it still wasn't enough. A return to strike action is not ruled out.

South Africa: court orders strikers back to work

Johannesburg, South Africa
240 Rea Vaya drivers who went on indefinite strike on Monday returned to work yesterday. They were striking for a pay increase of R3,000 (£213) a month. The Labour Court in Johannesburg granted PioTrans, the operator, an interim injunction against the strike.  Employers and the union will go to the Labour Court on November 15 for a final ruling on the matter.

Strike dates for First Devon and Cornwall

RMT today confirmed two strike dates and further action short of a strike. This followed a big vote for action in a dispute over pay. Members voted by almost 85% for strike action and by over 90% for action short of a strike.
The strike days are Friday 26 October and Friday 9 November. In addition, union members will not work any any unscheduled overtime or rest days between Sunday 11 November and 11.59pm on Saturday 17 November.
The action follows the rejection of this year's long overdue pay offer. The company's current pay proposal is self-funding – meaning it would have no cost impact on the company and ring-fences their profits.
It includes the loss of paid walking time, the removal of time to do a visual "walk round" check when taking a bus over mid shift and the dilution of the sick pay benefits. This follows on from the removal of the final salary section of the pension scheme, already implemented despite fierce union objections.

Arriva drivers win discrimination payout

Two Arriva bus drivers have won compensation for discrimination at an employment tribunal; the men said that they were threatened with dismissal because they had worn high visibility vests which had their union logo ‘RMT’ written across them.
Mr Farr and Mr Graves had worked out of Arriva’s South Croydon garage. Both men were members of the RMT. When they wore high-visibility vests with the RMT logo, they were ‘harassed, disciplined and threatened with the sack’.
Both men raised claims of discrimination to the employment tribunal. Speaking at the hearing, the men said that colleagues had often worn non-Arriva vests, some of which carried racist messages; one was said to have worn a swastika on his. However, none of their colleagues had ever been disciplined, they said.
The employment tribunal ruled that Mr Farr would receive £7,000 compensation and Mr Graves would receive £9,000. It said: ‘The purpose of the acts complained of was to penalise the claimants for being members of the RMT and/or to deter them from taking part in the RMT.’
Speaking after the verdict, RMT General Secretary, Mr Crow, said: ‘Arriva had no problem in tolerating bigotry and fascist messages but was not able to tolerate the three letters ‘RMT.’

17 Oct 2012

Algiers: bus workers strike for pay, to kick out their boss, and their own general secretary

About 800 workers employed by the Algiers Urban and Suburban Transport Enterprise (ETUSA) walked out on indefinite strike on Tuesday. They are demanding the rigorous implementation of their contracts (which would mean a substantial pay rise) and the resignation of the director general of ETUSA.
The strikers include bus drivers, tram drivers, ticket collectors and mechanics. They are also unhappy with their UGTA union. They staged a sit-down protest outside the union HQ this week, demanding the resignation of the general secretary.
The strikers complaints about their working conditions include the lack of an affiliation to a social security scheme, contracts limited to a maximum of three years, and vindictive sackings by management of union activists.
The strikers say their low pay is actually illegal. Their basic salary is 13,000 DA, but the law says that the minimum salary of public sector workers should by 18,000 DA. One protestor said "We've knocked on all doors for many years, and never got any response. We are fed up"

Pay revolt spreads to Devon and Cornwall

On 1 October workers at First Cymru in South and West Wales struck for a decent pay rise. At First Aberdeen workers have demanded a ballot for action over their derisory pay offer. Now the revolt against low pay has spread to bus workers at First in Devon and Cornwall.
It comes at a time when First is trying to sell of many of its routes in Scotland and the North of England, as it doesn't think they are profitable enough.

Here is the report from the BBC website:
Hundreds of bus workers in Devon and Cornwall have voted for industrial action in a dispute over pay. The RMT said members were angry at First Group's failure to come up with a "serious pay offer".
First employs about 500 people in Devon and Cornwall. Of the 300 who took part in the RMT ballot, 85% voted for strike action, and 92% for action short of a strike.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said the company had already removed the final salary section of the pension scheme and was now trying to "bind up what's on the table with a whole load of strings". He said the union would not be rushing in to strike action, but would seek a negotiated settlement.

16 Oct 2012

Isle of Man: government tries to break the union

The Department of Community, Culture and Leisure says the decision to lay off around a hundred bus drivers at the weekend was the only way to break a stalemate in talks over terms and conditions.
The drivers will now have to reapply for their old jobs – but the main bone of contention, paid lunch breaks, won’t be included in the new contracts. Nick Black of the DCCL acknowledged the move could lead to industrial action. But he says long-running discussions with the drivers and their union were getting nowhere.

Last week the drivers voted overwhelmingly to reject the new terms and conditions – despite the union leadership recommending the deal. The vote was an extraordinary 93 to 1, with no spoilt ballot papers. The bus network on the Isle of Man is run by the government owned bus operator, Bus Vannin. The fleet currently has 74 vehicles servicing a total population of 84,655

15 Oct 2012

South Africa: indefinite strike over pay

Johannesburg, South Africa
Rea Vaya drivers walked out on strike today, demanding a pay increase of R3,000 (£213) a month before they return to work. This follows failed pay talks between unions and the operator PioTrans last week. The South African Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU) said its members are demanding a major increase after bus dispatchers received a 40 percent rise. The strikers are also demanding better hours and pension contributions, which were promised to them in 2011 during the last strike action.

12 Oct 2012

Isle of Man: drivers reject 'recommended' deal

Bus drivers on the Isle of Man have voted overwhelmingly to reject new terms and conditions – despite the union leadership recommending the deal. Community Culture and Leisure Minister Graham Cregeen has warned that drivers could lose their jobs if the new terms and conditions are not adopted. Eric Holmes of the Unite union said the matter was now in the hands of the minister but that a ballot for industrial action could follow if an improved offer wasn’t made.
Under the offer rejected by the Unite membership, drivers’ lunch breaks will no longer be paid, sick pay will reduce to being based on 37 hours per week and maximum driving time will increase from three hours 45 minutes to four hours 10 minutes.

11 Oct 2012

Tunisia: wildcat strike gets colleague out of jail

Tunis was paralysed yesterday by a wildcat strike of tram and bus workers. They struck to demand the liberation of one of their colleagues, who was arrested on Tuesday after a traffic accident. The driver, Anis Sboui, was released at midday – and the strike was suspended.
In recent weeks, there has been a strike wave in the West and the South of the country – with many demands for the fall of the government, and social demands such as the right to work. The General Federation of Transport union is also threatening to call a general strike on 22 October.

10 Oct 2012

Jersey strikers return to work

Following a day of talks between management and union representatives yesterday, drivers have agreed to return to work while negotiations continue. The drivers walked out on indefinite strike on Monday this week, in protest against planned changes to their contracts. All 19 routes on the island – and all school services – were shut down by the strike.

9 Oct 2012

Jersey: indefinite strike over contracts

Bus workers at Connex Jersey walked out on indefinite strike yesterday. They are protesting at the terms of a new contract which will come into effect from January – when CT Plus take over the routes. The strike is solid. Connex's website states "All network and school routes are canceled until further notice."
Jim McCartan, from Unison, said that staff "had been backed into a corner". "We have been given a deadline of Friday 12 October to sign up to this contract without negotiation or else they are going to interview outsiders, that's why we are on strike," he said.
One of the strikers' complaints is that changes to their contracts do not take into account their length of service. Some of the workers are members of Unite while others are in Unison.

1 Oct 2012

First Cymru: drivers speak out

Today's 24 hour strike at First Cymru is hitting hard as drivers take action for a decent pay rise. One driver contacted this blog to explain why they are taking action today:
"I've been with Cymru for nearly six years and I've yet to see my P60 ever say I've earned £20k. The £27k that First are flaunting all over the news is rubbish – like the supposed £30k Aberdeen drivers earn.
"First need to come out of the dark ages and run the company like it's the 21st century – with 21st century rules and attitudes – not something akin to Henry the Eighth's reign.
"The 5% offer we rejected had GreenRoad* all over it with us having to hit targets to get an increased rate. There were also much lower pay and holiday benefits for new starters, and no back pay to January 2012.
The revised offer was 1% back dated and 2.5% in January 2013 and the new starter rates still applied. I'm sorry but new or not we all have the same licence and do the same job so we must get paid fairly and equally."
* GreenRoad (aka DriveGreen) is First's name for a program of surveillance and micromanagement of drivers. Under the guise of 'going green' and reducing emissions from buses, they use the latest technology to record, analyse and pass judgement on every decision - braking, acceleration, manoeuvring etc - that drivers make. In a rational world, this technology could have its benefits. But in the hands of your average manager, and your average company, its primary function is to extract maximum profits from the workforce.

Left with no other option
The South Wales Evening Post was also contacted by a couple of drivers who explained why they are striking. One said: "Drivers do take passengers into account during the strike but we feel we are left with no other options of expressing our feelings towards First Cymru in this current situation."
Another said: "I have a lodger in my house to afford to live. I know a few drivers have lodgers so they can afford to keep a roof over their heads. We are only asking for what we are entitled to have. We don't want to lose a day's pay but if it's the only way we can get the company to listen then we have no choice."

First Cymru strike hits hard

Bus drivers and engineers at First Cymru are on strike today across South and West Wales. Picket lines were solid in Pontardawe, and in Port Talbot only one driver crossed into work. Cars beeped their horns in support, and there was solidarity from postal workers.
Maesteg depot closed with 100 percent support for the strike. One picket told Socialist Worker, "The BBC are putting out that we earn £27,000 a year and have turned down a 5 percent offer. But that’s rubbish. Last year I earned less than £17,000 and that is with overtime. The offer we voted against was for 1 percent this year and 2 percent next year with strings attached”.
At a picket of over 20 at Ravenhill, Unite branch chair Ray Thomas said, “People have not had a decent pay rise for years and drivers are on very low wages. “We don’t want to hurt customers but this is the only way left. There will have to be more action to win.”

Send messages of support to r.thomas33@ntlworld.com
Report by Sarah Ensor, Tim Evans, Jeff Hurford and Huw Pudner


28 Sep 2012

Aberdeen drivers demand a share of megaprofits

It's not just in Wales where workers employed First Bus are fighting back. About 400 union members in Aberdeen are to be balloted on industrial action over pay, after a consultative ballot made clear that an overwhelming majority thought the pay rise on offer was insulting (The vote was 209 to 19). If a strike goes ahead it is likely to take place in the run up to Christmas.
First was offering a measly 1.5% pay rise, despite seeing pre-tax profits jump from £126m to £280m in the year to 31 March. The official (some would argue fictitious) inflation rate currently stands at 2.9% - so anything below that is clearly a pay cut.
Talks took place today between management and union officials in an attempt to settle the dispute. However, no agreement was reached. Unite’s regional rep Tommy Campbell said: "The company is being mean yet again by not sharing out some of the millions of pound of profits they have made to the workers that help create that profit."

Wales: strike goes ahead after drivers reject offer recommended by union

First Cymru drivers and engineers will strike in South and West Wales on Monday after rejecting the company's latest pay offer. Union leaders met with managers at the firm's Ravenhill headquarters for crunch talks on Tuesday this week to try and avert a strike. The 'improved' pay deal of a 1 percent increase from January this year and 2.5 percent increase from January next year was put to drivers and engineers last night.

But union members rejected the deal and will go ahead with the 24-hour strike on Monday from 4am. Unite rep Gareth Jones said that Unite had recommended the latest offer, but understood the frustration of the workers and pledged support from the union for the impending industrial action.

He said: "This is a serious step for them to take... The recommendation came from senior shop stewards. Our members have decided not to follow that recommendation which is their right to do so.
"We understand why they have rejected that... It is not a great offer but we felt it was the best that could be achieved through negotiations."
The strike will effect many routes. First serves Bridgend, Maesteg, Port Talbot, Neath, Swansea, Llanelli, Carmarthen and south Pembrokeshire, including Haverfordwest. It also runs Excel services and the Swansea to Cardiff Greyhound coach service.

Aberdeen drivers up for a fight

Drivers at First Bus in Aberdeen have voted for a formal ballot on industrial action. The consultative ballot saw an overwhelming majority in favour, with 209 for and 19 against.  More details to follow.

24 Sep 2012

Belgium: wildcat strike over safety

Brussels, Belgium
Last Tuesday a wildcat strike broke out at the Anderlecht depot. The drivers were protesting at inadequate safety measures after an increase of violent incidents on their buses. An incident on Saturday evening provoked the strike, when a driver in trouble requested assistance from the bus company, but received none. The management have since acknowledged this was a mistake. Fifteen routes were effected by the action.

21 Sep 2012

Egypt: strike leaders arrested

Striking public transport workers in Cairo vowed to escalate their strike action after the president of their independent union, Tareq al-Beheiry and several colleagues were arrested on charges of ‘incitement to strike’. The workers are fighting for the return of the Public Transport Authority to Ministry of Transport control from the Governorate of Cairo, increases in pay and bonuses. The strike takes up demands raised in previous strikes, which the government has failed to meet.
Meanwhile a senior official from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party attacked the strikers. “When workers of a vital service such as public transport decide to stop working, this is treason to the country,” he told Ahram Online on Monday.
What you can do:
  • Write a letter of protest to the Egyptian embassy in your country calling for the immediate release of Tareq el-Beheiry and his colleagues
  • Send messages of support to the PTA strikers using this solidarity toolkit 

17 Sep 2012

India: indefinite strike ends with victory

Karnataka State, South West India
The indefinite strike by 110,000 bus workers in Bangalore and the surrounding region has ended with a swift victory after just 48 hours. The state government accepted most of their demands after talks that ended late on Friday. 
The unions’ main demand of merging the Variable Dearness Allowance (VDA) with the basic salary had been accepted. It was also agreed that transfers effected on administrative grounds from March 2012 and show-cause notices issued to trainee employees since Thursday would be withdrawn. 
However, the other main demand — that of absorbing as regular staff the thousands of trainee crew — has not been settled. But as a sop, they will be paid an additional Rs. 1,000 per month from September, increasing their pay to Rs. 8,000 a month. And their 'training period' will not be extended beyond two years. The other demands of the unions will be considered by a subcommittee.

Isle of Man: bosses try to steal drivers' lunch

On Friday drivers will be asked to vote on whether or not they will accept the loss of their paid lunch break. The Department of Community, Culture and Leisure says it needs to do away with the payment in order to save an urgent £300,000. But drivers say this could cost them in the region of £3,500 to £4,000 a year, equivalent to a 12 per cent pay cut. They say when the paid lunch break was introduced, they lost other areas of their pay and these would not be reinstated with the loss of paid lunch. 
Eric Holmes of Unite said the payment should actually be referred to as a ‘shift disturbance allowance’ rather than a paid lunch break because over the years this right had been eroded and drivers had become unrecognised shift workers.
Last month Mr Holmes said a letter sent by Community, Culture and Leisure Minister Graham Cregeen to bus drivers could be used as evidence in an unfair dismissal tribunal. He said the letter was ‘very contentious and threatening’. Drivers believe the letter, which refers to negotiations over their contract, tells them their jobs are in jeopardy if they don’t sign up to new working conditions, including the loss of their paid lunch hour.

16 Sep 2012

Cairo's transport workers strike for reforms

Egypt saw a fresh wave of strikes on today as workers in the transport and education sectors downed tools to push for financial and administrative reform. In separate bouts of industrial action, workers at the Cairo Transportation Authority (CTA) and non-academic staff at universities across Egypt walked off the job.
Bus services ground to a halt at five garages in the capital while 22 others began partial strikes in an attempt to force the CTA to be attached to Egypt's Ministry of Transport – a move, workers say, that will boost their salaries and bonuses. Workers made the same demand during strikes in mid-2011, reaching a compromise agreement with CTA management. That, evidently, has not been enough.
"It is still the same. We want to be attached to the ministry of transportation to enjoy the public sector's pay raises," Ali Fatouh, a leader of the workers independent syndicate at the Cairo Transportation Authority (CTA) told Ahram Online. CTA workers have not received a 200 per cent pay increase granted to state workers last year, Fatouh claimed. Instead they have had a monthly LE200 rise.
Fatouh also complained that the government was ignoring their demands. "Nobody from the government contacted us. This is starting to look like Ahmed Nazif's government," he added, referring to a much-maligned prime minister from the Hosni Mubarak era.

13 Sep 2012

India: 110,000 bus workers on indefinite strike

Karnataka State, South West India
An indefinite strike by around 110,000 employees of Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation began today. The bus workers, belonging to five different unions, are striking over pay, over proper consultation with union members, and over the regularisation of around 33,000 trainees. 
The impact of the strike has shaken the authorities. It has taken over 14,000 buses off the road. The government are now threatening to invoke the anti-union Essential Services Maintenance Act to try and break the strike.

Palestine: transport workers strike together

Some 2,000 Palestinians angry at the rising cost of living flooded the streets of Hebron on Monday, as a general strike halted public transport across the West Bank. Clouds of black smoke poured into the air across the Israeli-occupied territory as furious demonstrators set light to tyres, kicking off a second week of protests against the spiralling cost of living, high petrol prices and unemployment.
The demonstrators took to the streets in the early morning, blocking main roads with boulders and burning tyres. Later they threw stones at cars, the municipal building, the Palestinian police and Israeli troops.Public transport was at a complete halt throughout the West Bank as union leaders called a mass strike over the rising cost of petrol which has risen from six to eight shekels per litre in the past two months. 
With no buses, minibuses or taxis in operation, the streets were empty, and private cars were also barred from entering towns and cities by makeshift roadblocks. At the Qalandia crossing between Ramallah and Jerusalem, small groups of bus and taxi drivers were on the lookout for any strike breakers.

Some of the wider context:

There have been increasing numbers of demonstrations across the West Bank in recent months. On Saturday refugee camps in the Ramallah area protested against the rocketing cost of living. Last month public sector workers received only half their salaries, and this month they have been told their pay will be staggered into two payments. This is creating huge discontent. 
Two elements are fuelling the protests. There is the fact that prime minister Salam Fayyad has tried to tie the Palestinian economy to that of Israel—with disastrous results for the Palestinian poor. Fayed was previously a financier with the International Monetary Fund and is committed to pursuing a neoliberal economic strategy on the Occupied Territories. 
But there is also the Arab Spring, which has deeply affected the Palestinians. The latest popular protests reflect a significant working class response to the combined pressures of austerity and occupation—and open up a potentially exciting new phase in the Palestinian struggle.

16 Aug 2012

Portugal: transport workers strike against savage attacks on working conditions

Public transport in Portugal was disrupted yesterday. Workers struck in protest at government plans to alter working conditions to make the recession-struck country "more competitive". The 24-hour strike mostly affected rail and bus services in Lisbon and the northern city of Oporto.
On Tuesday, striking dockworkers crippled Portugal's main harbours to protest the reforms which include the easing of limits on working hours, new rules to make hiring and firing easier and the scrapping of certain holidays. The measures, pushed through by the government, have been fiercely opposed by unions and thousands have taken to the streets in protest.

13 Aug 2012

Abellio workers in Surrey strike over pay

By Rob Owen
A strike by bus workers in the Unite union shut down the Abellio garage in Byfleet, Surrey, this morning. The workers walked out over plans by the company to freeze their pay. Last minute negotiations at Acas failed to reach a resolution. Abellio refused to make the workers an offer above 1.5 percent. The union is holding on for a 4 percent pay rise. But for many of the drivers on the picket line the issues around the strike run deeper. 
Abellio claims the byfleet depot is losing money, despite the company making millions in profit last year. Extra layers of management have been added to “oversee” the garage. They are proposing cuts that could see drivers losing up to £80 a week. 

Test case
There are also fears that the company is using its Surrey operation as a test case. If its pay freeze succeeds here it could roll it out to its other London garages. One Unite rep described what was going on as “legalised robbery”.
When it was announced that management had received a 7 percent pay rise one worker shouted out “We should demand 7 percent too!” to nods from the crowd. Over 30 workers joined the 6am picket line in a near-solid strike. Some 120 workers are based at the garage.
Send messages of support to daveweeks@unitetheunion.org


6 Aug 2012

National Express pays massive bonus – to the boss

National Express, one of the 'big five' British bus operators,  is boosting the pay of its CEO Dean Finch, after deciding it initially hired him “on the cheap”. He is being awarded 261,407 free shares and his maximum annual bonus is increasing from 125 percent to 150 percent of his £550,000 basic salary. The timing raised eyebrows after last week’s 14 percent fall in half-year profits to £82m pre-tax. 

13 Jul 2012

Lessons of the dispute over Olympic bonus

The bus bosses, transport for London (tfL) and Boris Johnson have been forced to sit up and take notice of London busworkers. The London-wide strike on 22 June and the threat of more action on 5 and 24 July forced them to make an improved offer. It comes despite previous claims that there was no money for an Olympic bonus for busworkers.
Busworkers will vote on the offer on Tuesday (17 July).
However the vote goes, one lesson has to be made clear—when the buses stop so does London. It’s strike action that has made progress on the Olympic bonus. Similar hard hitting action, could win more victories on pay and halt bosses attacks on conditions too.

Details of the offer
There’s talk of the Olympic bonus payment being paid per rostered duty completed. The figure being put around is £27.50 per duty. This would be a gross (before tax) payment. Apparently there could be some extra cash for workers from TfL’s 50/50 revenue split too.
A per duty payment would mean that what you actually get would depend on what you worked over the Olympics.
It’s worth remembering that DLR workers got £900, Network Rail got £500, Heathrow Express £700, London Overground £600 and Unite members on the tubes at least £850.
However the bonus is calculated— London busworkers should get as a minimum the £500 (plus £100 for strikers) the union demanded. 

More action is an option
If that’s not on offer then more action is an option. One strike got this far, couldn’t a second get all the way? The fact that the union has forced the employers to make a serious offer is a massive step forward, a real achievement by everyone involved. 

Whatever the result of next week’s ballot rank and file busworkers have to get organised to make sure the battle over bonuses is just the start of a wider war. A victory in the bonus fight should kick start a campaign by Unite against low pay and attacks on conditions.

10 Jul 2012

Stagecoach gets cold feet in Devon

Stagecoach has scrapped plans to buy a Devon bus business from rival FirstGroup after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referred the deal to the competition regulator. Stagecoach had initially agreed the £2.8 million acquisition of FirstGroup's North Devon and Torridge bus business in March. The move by the OFT comes after Britain's bus industry was singled out for its lack of competition by the mergers regulator in December last year.

4 Jul 2012

New busworker meeting in Ladbroke Grove

Things are moving fast in the fight for an Olympic bonus. It looks like the operators are starting to cough up under pressure of the strikes. Come and discuss how we can press home our advantage. 
Building the fightback on London’s buses
Monday 16 July, 6.30pm
@ Trellick Lounge Cafe (downstairs)
11 Goldborne Road, London W10 5NY
Nearest tube: Westbourne Park

• The fight to win the London bonus is well and truly on. But how do we make sure that it wins?  
• Can we widen the battle to take on low pay and the drive to a two tier workforce? 
• And can we take on the anti trade union laws that the employers are trying to use to break the fightback?

Tomorrow's London strike suspended for talks

Tomorrow’s London-wide bus strike has been suspended for talks after bosses offered to fund a Olympic bonus for bus workers by sharing profits made during the games. 
The Unite union announced two new strike datesd two new strike dates last week following its successful strike on 22 June. The action scheduled for Tuesday 24 July is still on. 
Bus workers are demanding a payment of at least £600 after tax to compensate for an increased workload during the Olympics and wages lost due to the 22 June strike. The new offer from Transport for London (TfL) involves funding the bonus by splitting profits made during the Olympics 50-50 with bus workers. 

The small print
If shared out equally among all bus workers in London this would amount to £583 each before tax, according to Leon Daniels, TfL’s managing director for surface transport. Press reports suggest the deal offers £700 to bus workers. But this is conditional on the union accepting that only workers “directly affected” by the games get a bonus. It also only applies to those who work 24 of the 29 days in the Olympics period. Those who work fewer days, such as part-timers or workers on a four day week, would get a lot less.
Finally, all the sums TfL are quoting are gross figures, before tax and other deductions. Once these are factored in, the offer drops by around £100 per worker. Such a deal doesn’t look good enough. 

More can be won
Unite was right to call the 22 June strike and right to refuse the latest offer. But the union would be in a stronger position if it had not called off the strike this week—or dropped its legal action against three bus companies that used court injuctions to stop the 22 June strike. 
There have been months to settle this dispute—yet TfL, the private bus operators and London’s Tory mayor Boris Johnson all refused to talk to the union. They thought that bus workers wouldn’t fight back. They were wrong. The 22 June action took them by surprise and hit bus services hard across the capital. 
It has also helped regenerate rank and file networks of bus workers. They want to use the bonus fight to kick off a wider battle against low pay and poor working conditions on the buses. So this dispute is about more than just the Olympics. It has the potential to transform the organisation and power of London’s 20,000 bus workers. The union should fight on—and call more strikes if necessary.

2 Jul 2012

Busworker meeting in Tottenham

After the success of our post-strike meeting in Willesden, we're setting up a few more around London. The details for Tottenham are as follows:

After the strike...
Building the fightback on London’s buses
Wednesday 4 July, 7pm
@ Kitap Evi Cafe (upstairs)
410 Tottenham High Road, London N17 9JB

• The fight to win the London bonus is well and truly on. But how do we make sure that it wins?  
• Can we widen the battle to take on low pay and the drive to a two tier workforce? 
• And can we take on the anti trade union laws that the employers are trying to use to break the fightback? Come along to discuss the way forward.

A response to management rumours about bonus

Unite accused the employers of acting with "gross irresponsibility" by implying workers could gain a £500 bonus under an offer previously made at Acas and rejected out of hand by the union. Unite says the £500 offered by the bus operators was immediately rejected at previous talks as it required its members to work all 29 days of the Olympics and Paralympics to achieve it.
"The reality is that the offer made would give a bus worker just over half of the award claimed, and only then if they worked all their legally rostered shifts over the Olympic period... It beggars belief that the cartel running the capital's transport system can treat a key workforce, drivers, passengers and the visitors to London with such contemptuous disregard."
"We all want the Olympics to succeed but if the bus employers cannot get serious about solving this dispute then we say to the mayor, Boris Johnson, show some leadership, it's what you were elected to do - get on one of your bikes and join these talks now'." More talks between the union and the operators are being held at Acas today.
Press Association

28 Jun 2012

London drivers to strike again on 5 and 24 July

From the Unite press release: 
Thousands of London bus workers will take strike action next Thursday (5 July) followed by action on Tuesday (24 July) in a dispute over London bus operators' continued refusal to recognise their workers' extra effort over the Olympics with a £500 Olympic award.

Unite accused the bus operators of playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship, pushing action closer towards the Games. With just 29 days to go to the Olympics, the union called on the operators to join it for talks on Monday at Acas. The operators - which have collectively posted over £2 billion in profits - have yet to confirm their presence at the negotiating table.

Reballot means everyone could strike together on 24 July
The reballot of bus workers at Metroline, Arriva the Shires and Go Ahead London General is expected to start next Wednesday (4 July) and finish on Tuesday (17 July) meaning action on 24 July could lead to a total standstill of bus services across London, just three days before the Olympic Games.

Unite to reballot workers hit by injunction

Unite is to reballot London bus drivers barred from striking over Olympic bonuses by a high court injunction. The union will hold a new poll for 4,000 workers at three operators that had secured an injunction over ballot irregularities last week.
Unite is preparing to announce further strike dates as it steps up demands for a £500 Olympic Games bonus for its 21,000 bus industry members, although the payment could ultimately extend to around 29,000 staff.

It is also understood that bus operators have sounded out TfL about a contribution towards an Olympic bonus, but TfL has made clear that the ODA fund will be the limit of any taxpayer-backed contribution. http://www.guardian.co.uk

Busworker meeting in Ladbroke Grove

After the success of our post-strike meeting in Willesden, we're setting up a few more around London. The details for the Ladbroke Grove meeting are as follows:

After the strike...
Building the fightback on London’s buses
Tuesday 3 July, 6.30pm
@ Trellick Lounge Cafe (downstairs)
11 Goldborne Road, London W10 5NY
Nearest tube: Westbourne Park

• The fight to win the London bonus is well and truly on. But how do we make sure that it wins?  
• Can we widen the battle to take on low pay and the drive to a two tier workforce? 
• And can we take on the anti trade union laws that the employers are trying to use to break the fightback? Come along to discuss the way forward.

27 Jun 2012

Stagecoach: profits up, pensions down

Stagecoach reported pre-tax profits for the year to the April rose to £239.8m from £209.7m, for the same period a year earlier, on revenues of £2.6bn (£2.4bn). The results were lifted almost entirely by one-off items, including a £38m exceptional gain from changes to the company’s pension scheme, which reduces its liabilities going forward.

£500 Olympic bonus – for some Boris bike staff

Boris Bike staff have won a £500 Olympic bonus for extra work during the Games - putting added pressure on the capital's bus operators to pay their 20,000 staff the same amount.
Terry Pye, national officer for Community the union said all 220 workers at Serco's London cycle hire scheme would receive the money to cover extra work during the Games and Paralympics. There will also be enhanced overtime payments of time and a half for Saturdays and double time on Sundays.

Most staff still in dispute
The RMT last month threated a strike ballot among its bike staff members and today claimed there was no agreement among the majority of those members. The union said it remained in dispute with the compan
y. A Serco spokesman said the RMT was not a recognised union at the hire scheme having formally withdrawn its recognition application last month.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said "There is no Olympics payment agreement for the vast majority of the Serco bikes staff who are members of the RMT and we remain in dispute with the company. RMT is by far the biggest union on the Boris bikes and regardless of what others might be saying the issue of recognition is being dealt with by the TUC disputes procedure." 

Safety comes last - a driver's account

Conditions in the garages have been deteriorating for about 4 years. Ever since the crisis in the economy started in 2008, they’ve used it as an excuse to not invest at all. They try and make ‘savings’ and cut corners everywhere they can, and to get away with it, they bully and attempt to trick the workers.  

Old buses
Some garages have better buses than others. In my garage, we’ve got dreadful buses. They’re too old and everyone knows it. Management has been telling workers who point this out that we’ve just got to ‘hang on in there’ till we get some new buses in a year or two. But the old buses, which never do get replaced, are so bad many of drivers have even gone so far as to hand in resignation notices or tried to get transfers elsewhere. When they do arrive they’re not new buses at all - they’re the same models as the ones we’ve got, only 1 or 2 years newer! And they try and tell us they’re new!

Defect cards
If we complain, we are threatened with penalisation and disciplinaries. By law we have to fill in ‘defect cards’ which are legal documents, so we cannot lie and cover up defects on buses, nor do we want to. Defective buses are a danger to the public and drivers. But they never take notice of the defect cards, and I’ve been threatened with disciplinary action for filling one in correctly. This is because there are no spare parts - the garages are empty, due to ‘savings’, and so they can’t repair them.


The lengths management go to to undermine the drivers when they point this out are unbelievable. If a disabled ramp is discovered to be broken on a bus, and the driver reports this, instead of fixing it, they’ll simply move that bus onto another route, so we think it’s being dealt with, and the drivers on the other route have to wait until they need to use the ramp to find out it’s defective. Then they’ll move that bus on again. So drivers have stopped filling in these legal documents, the defect cards, because they’re demoralised.  
One time a few years ago the window of my cab fell out. When the engineer came to repair it, he didn’t have the right tools and couldn’t do it properly. So now that window constantly rattles and makes a horrible noise, and it gives the driver a headache when he or she is driving all day. If I come into work and see I’ve got that bus, I know my whole day is ruined. 
Avoiding blame
If you report a bus as defective, it’s supposed to be taken in and the driver, engineering manager and others watch the entrances to the bus get sealed so that when it is tested, they know the bus is as it was when you reported it. When the brakes went on my bus and I reported it, the engineering manager didn’t want to get the blame for allowing faulty brakes on a bus, which he’d done to save money. After I complained he rang me up on my own mobile, which breaks procedure, to threaten me with disciplinary action. He had to do it over the mobile because what he was telling me - to not report it - was incriminatory. This way our conversation wasn’t recorded.

Breaking seals
A colleague in the garage who knows him rang me later, after we’d sealed the bus, and told me the engineering manager was going to break the seals to the bus at night, making my complaint invalid. He knew the bus, which was his responsibility, would fail the test, and so needed to break the seals so that no one could know if the brakes had gone after or before I reported it. Lo and behold when the bus came to be tested the seals were broken, which was blamed on ‘the cleaners’.

In our garage a new system is coming in which has been with other garages for some time, where it is very unpopular. An electronic system will monitor drivers to see if they are braking or accelerating too sharply. It even monitors passengers’ movements to see if they’re moving around too much due to our driving. Not only is this draconian and an insult to hard working drivers, but it’s not even remotely fair because the buses are faulty and are not being repaired. ‘Bad’ driving is more often than not down to an ageing bus letting the driver down. Suspension won’t be fixed until it falls off.

Getting rid of drivers

One reason this is being brought in is to have an excuse to get rid of workers. After you’ve been with a company for 5 years you get higher wages and other kinds of bonuses. So they are now, in the last few years especially, trying very hard to get rid of drivers before they get to that point. If the public knew the state of the buses they would not get on them. If they knew how we were treated they would definitely support our strike. We want to be recognised and treated properly and equally with other transport workers.