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