30 Jan 2012

Belgium: bus drivers join general strike

Belgium is gripped by a 24-hour strike today, hitting rail and bus services and leading to the cancellation of some flights from Brussels as the three main unions protest against austerity measures.
No domestic or international rail services are running in Belgium today. The strike has shut down all tram, subway and bus services in Brussels. Public workers protesting government reforms to pensions held a similar one-day strike last month, paralyzing public transport across the country.  
Many schools and shops shut and production at the Audi and Volvo car plants stopped. Charleroi Airport, a hub for Ryanair and other low-cost carriers, was forced to cancel all flights due to union plans to block the access road. 
At the port of Antwerp, Europe's second busiest, all container and some bulk cargo terminals were shut, with shipping traffic suffering delays due to suspended harbour services.The walkout coincides with the 17th EU summit in two years as the bloc battles to resolve its sovereign debt problems. The EU leaders will sign off on a permanent rescue fund for the Eurozone and are expected to agree on a balanced budget rule in national legislation. 
Unions have called the general strike over government plans to raise the effective retirement age along with other measures designed to save 11.3 billion euros.

East Lancs drivers vote for action on low pay

Drivers in East Lancashire are set to walk out on a series of stoppages over the next 12 weeks in a row over pay. Unite members at Rossendale Transport are unhappy at a 1.3 per cent pay deal, imposed last October. They have voted for ‘discontinous action’, over a three-month period, to put pressure on management.  
Cathy Rudderforth, Unite East Lancashire organiser, said union members would undertake a three-hour stoppage every eight days. She said: “The drivers are extremely unhappy... that the company has incurred quite a large amount of expenditure on other things.  
“Recently a new fuel management system has been introduced and a number of new buses have been added to the fleet... But you also have the fact that Transdev’s Burnley and Pendle drivers, who were already on £2 an hour more than Rossendale’s, have been given a three per cent pay rise."
Rossendale Transport Ltd is wholly owned by Rossendale Borough Council, which makes it one of the few remaining municipal bus companies in Britain. The council did try and sell it off in 2009, despite local opposition. But they couldn't find a buyer.

27 Jan 2012

DLR drivers to get £2,500 Olympic bonus

The RMT announced yesterday that it has secured a ground breaking Olympics pay deal for DLR workers worth £2,500. This is made up of a guaranteed attendance payment of £900 and guaranteed overtime payments for all staff throughout the Olympics and Paralympics period.

The agreement is constructed as follows: 
∙ £900 attendance bonus, paid at £100 per week over a 9-week period for all staff in every grade. 

Time +¾ for any hour worked on overtime throughout the 9-week period with a guaranteed minimum 5 hours per week, 45 hours over the 9 week period, for all staff in every grade.

The deal makes Unite's campaign for a £500 Olympic bonus for bus drivers all the more compelling. An extra 800,000 passengers are expected to use London buses during the games.

Drivers at National Express subsidiary speak out about safety

Oakland, California
At an event organised by the Teamsters union, several school bus drivers employed by Durham – a National Express subsidiary – spoke out about poor working conditions at the company.  
"Durham has been swapping our newer buses for the aging buses of another yard [garage] so they can stay compliant there, but we have at least one to several buses breaking down every day," said Ernie Talbott, a driver at the Livermore garage. "Where's Durham's commitment to safety and providing quality services?"  
"I'm concerned about a lot of things," said Linda Aguiar, a 25-year Livermore driver. "We don't have paid sick leave and the health insurance Durham offers is too expensive for most drivers to afford, so they go without. It's a large portion of our meagre earnings to have coverage if we get sick."  
"This is a highly profitable company, but drivers are struggling to survive and support our families. For us this isn't about being comfortable; it's about our survival," said Maria Lopez, a driver at the Hayward garage. Durham is the second largest provider of school bus transportation services in the United States.

Fears over Glaswegian merger

Two MSPs, Jim Sheridan and Hugh Henry, are calling for a full enquiry into the acquisition of Arriva's Glasgow operation by McGill's. It is thought to have cost £10 million. The move comes as McGill's faces an Office of Fair Trading review.  
The takeover, set to be finalised in March, expands the combined fleet by 165 buses and adds nearly 400 employees to McGill's – now believed to be Scotland's third largest bus group. They will now have more than 700 workers and around 300 buses.
Hugh Henry fears that besides potential redundancies McGill's will be handed a local monopoly that will make for high fares and poor service. McGill's, with bases in Barrhead and Greenock, has yet to announce how it plans to achieve economies in an operation that now includes both the former Arriva staff and all of its local bus routes.

25 Jan 2012

South Yorkshire drivers call more strikes

Bus drivers in South Yorkshire held a mass meeting last Sunday to discuss the next steps in their pay dispute with their employer Stagecoach. The drivers, members of the Unite union, voted overwhelmingly to continue their strikes. They will walk out on 4, 6, 8 and 10 February, and plan similar strikes each month thereafter.  
Barnsley trades council is due to meet on Wednesday of this week. It will discuss holding a march and rally in support of the bus workers on Saturday 4 February, the day of the first strike. Bus drivers have been lifted by the messages of support and donations that have been sent in. Stagecoach is refusing to budge on paying back pay owed from beginning of June.
Send messages of support to Barnsley Unite branch secretary Tony Rushforth at a-rushforth@sky.com. Make cheques payable to TGWU 9/9 Barnsley and send to A Rushforth, 45 Tune St, Barnsley S73 8PX

18 Jan 2012

South Yorkshire: big pickets on eighth strike day

Bus workers at Stagecoach in South Yorkshire walked out on Monday of this week—their eighth strike day. The strike followed a decision last week to reject a management offer in their pay dispute.  
The workers, members of the Unite union, voted 206 to 89 against the offer. They want to fight for a top pay rate of £9 an hour plus back pay. Stagecoach had offered them £9.05 an hour but no back pay.  
The picket lines were significantly larger on Monday with some 70 pickets at the Barnsley depot and 20 at Rawmarsh. The mood was positive and determined. The workers will hold a mass meeting on Sunday this week to decide their next step. There is a strong mood for more strikes.
But the drivers need financial support. Email messages of support to Barnsley Unite branch secretary Tony Rushforth at a‑rushforth@sky.com Cheques should be made payable to TGWU 9/9 Barnsley and sent to A Rushforth, 45 Tune Street, Wombwell, Barnsley S73 8PX

Sovereign pay offer rejected

Drivers at London Sovereign have rejected a below inflation pay offer. Drivers at the Harrow and Edgware garages in north west London voted 105 to 21 against the offer on Friday of last week. The rejection is a step forward for workers in their long running pay dispute. Sovereign bus drivers are the worst paid in London.  
Last year’s pay negotiations ended messily. Management tried to impose a rejected 2 percent deal by getting drivers to sign up as individuals. The Unite union cancelled a ballot as a result. But the latest result shows that workers at the two garages want to step up the fight. They rejected an attempt to extend the current 2 percent deal from July to December and rejected a 3.1 percent pay increase over the 12 months starting from December.  
Robert Laird, Unite rep at Edgware, told Socialist Worker, “To have an extended deal would have been pretty awful. It would have diluted the 2 percent even further.” The “anniversary date” for the next pay settlement now reverts to July. Drivers will be meeting shortly to discuss the next steps in their campaign.

16 Jan 2012

South Yorkshire drivers reject deal

Bus drivers in the Unite union at Barnsley and Rawmarsh have voted to reject the latest offer from their employer Stagecoach. The drivers have held seven strike days in their campaign for decent pay. They voted 206 to 89 against the latest offer and will strike again today.
Local union branches in South Yorkshire are mobilising to support the bus drivers. A GMB branch donated £200 and an NUJ chapel gave £50 to the strikers’ hardship fund.
Messages of support should be emailed to Barnsley Unite branch secretary Tony Rushforth at a-rushforth@sky.com Cheques should be made payable to Unite, 8-9/9 Barnsley and sent to A Rushforth, 45 Tune Street, Wombwell, Barnsley S73 8PX

11 Jan 2012

Sri Lanka: wild cat strike over pay

Workers attached to the state-owned Nittambuwa and Negombo bus depots pulled-off a wild cat strike this afternoon in protest over the non-payment of their salaries. A spokesperson for the workers said that employees at the Nittambuwa Depot were yet to receive their salaries for November and December while those at Negombo hadn't been paid for December.

Yorkshire strike: scabbing operation crumbles

By George Arthur
Drivers at Stagecoach in Barnsley and Rawmarsh have carried over their strikes into the new year. A quarter of the Barnsley workforce turned out at 5am on Wednesday last week to picket the bus garage. An oil lorry refused to cross their picket line.
Stagecoach is struggling to keep up its scabbing operation against the strikers. The company has been relying on managers from other areas coming to drive buses—but fewer have been forthcoming. “They’ve even got the third highest Stagecoach manager nationally driving a bus today,” said one of the pickets.

Trades council rally
Barnsley trades council organised a lunchtime rally in support of the strikers. Members of the Unison, NUT, NASUWT and UCU unions, and students from Barnsley College, came to show solidarity.
One speaker reported that a friend of his was a bus driver on the Isle of Skye. Stagecoach had asked them to take holidays to come to Barnsley and break the strike. Strikers picked up an envelope dropped by a strikebreaker which showed how much they are being paid—£105 expenses plus £50 bonus each strike day. That means management are paying out £15,500 each strike day as well as reducing fares dramatically to £1. Even so, very few people are using Stagecoach buses.

All the drivers are asking for is an extra 26p an hour to bring them up to £9 an hour for a 38 hour week. They also want the increase to be backpaid to the start of April 2011. They have no extra payments for unsocial hours. Some drivers have to start at 4.30am. The last bus service finishes at 3am but there is no reward for working those hours.
Some 30 non-union drivers have joined Unite since the strike started. Strikers are determined to face down Stagecoach. They have held seven strike days so far and plan another on Monday of next week.
Management finally blinked and held talks with the union on Friday of last week. They offered £9.05 an hour starting immediately—but no back pay. Bosses claimed the funds they would have used for back pay had been spent on paying strikebreakers instead!
Stagecoach also wants to change the dates of pay negotiation, effectively making their offer an 18-month deal. Drivers will meet on Thursday of this week to vote on the offer. The union is recommending that they reject and go ahead with the planned 16 January strike day.

We need solidarity
Unite branch secretary Tony Rushforth said, “Our members have stuck together and shown Stagecoach we will not be intimidated. “But we are very short of money. We’ve had donations from GMB, Unison and Napo members in Sheffield. But we need extra—our branch funds have all been spent.”
It is clear that Stagecoach is trying to break the Barnsley strike as a lesson to its drivers across the country. That is why it is so important that this strike receives financial and political support from across the trade union movement.
Messages of support should be emailed to Barnsley Unite branch secretary Tony Rushforth at a-rushforth@sky.com Cheques should be made payable to Unite, 8-9/9 Barnsley and sent to A Rushforth, 45 Tune Street, Wombwell, Barnsley S73 8PX

London Sovereign ballot on pay

Bus drivers at London Sovereign in north west London are set to vote on a new offer in their long-running pay dispute on Friday of this week.
The company is offering a 2 percent pay rise from July to December this year followed by a 3.1 percent rise over the next 12 months. This is below the rate of inflation, making it a pay cut in real terms. It also comes with strings attached. Drivers should vote to reject it.
Last year’s pay talks at London Sovereign were never properly resolved. Drivers were being balloted on an offer of 2 percent over one year from last July to this July. But the Unite union cancelled the ballot after numbers of workers signed up to the offer as individuals. Many workers say that company managers pressurised them into signing the deal.
In 2009 Sovereign drivers struck and won a number of concessions over working hours. But management have been clawing back those gains ever since. Last year they sacked Abdul Omer Mohsin, the Unite union convenor. He had played a leading role in the 2009 strikes.

4 Jan 2012

Seventh strike day for South Yorkshire drivers

Drivers working at Stagecoach in South Yorkshire are out again today. It is the seventh strike day in their dispute over pay. The drivers are members of the Unite union at Stagecoach’s Barnsley and Rawmarsh depots. They are trying to win a top rate of £9 an hour plus back pay. Another strike is scheduled for Monday 16 January. Stagecoach is attempting to break the strike by drafting in over 100 scabs to drive buses, including managers and supervisors.

3 Jan 2012

Senegalese drivers strike - about everything

Dakar, Senegal
Thousands of residents in Senegal's capital city found themselves stranded yesterday as bus and taxi drivers began a two-day strike, leaving some to turn to horse-drawn carts to get around. "The call to strike is being followed by 98 percent (of workers) around the country," said Aliou Soum of the National Union of Road Transport Workers which called the strike.
He added drivers were protesting "the high price of fuel, the cost of insurance, police harassment and a lack of social protection" from their employers, among others.
The strike was launched on the eve of an ministerial meeting on transport. "If tomorrow's (Tuesday) meeting satisfies our demands, we will lift the strike, otherwise we will return to protesting, but for an unlimited strike," said Soum.