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.