16 Dec 2013

Brian Souter vs the public interest

A good piece from Kevin Maguire in today's Mirror:
"Bullying bus boss Brian Souter is a road block who needs bypassing to give passengers a better ride. The megabucks Stagecoach ­motormouth drives hard on the ­Thatcherite Right and is chucking his toys out of the pram over plans to impose order on routes in Tyne and Wear.

Taking poison
Souter, who together with his sister is worth an estimated £730million (the pair are 118th on the Britain and Ireland Rich List), claims he would rather “take poison” than swallow bold plans to control fares and routes in the public interest, therefore reducing how much he profits from travellers.
Grim threats to shut depots and sack crews, hysterically denouncing councillors as “unreconstructed Stalinists”, is the crazed reaction of a bus bandit behaving as wildly as the greedy energy fatcats who menacingly predict power cuts unless they’re allowed to continue ripping off customers.
Souter’s ticket to El Dorado is paid by northerners on his buses who he ­scathingly mocked as the ­“beer-drinking, chip-eating, council house-dwelling, old Labour-voting masses”.

Only time will tell if the tycoon is prepared to cut off his nose to spite his face. But I hope the five councils of Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and South and North Tyneside don’t buckle under Souter’s legal threats. I hope they stick to their guns and use their ­transport arm Nexus to restore order to the costly cowboy free market created by privatisation and ­deregulation a quarter of a century ago.
Ever since a public transport free-for-all was given the green light by Thatcher, bus fares have soared across the country and companies have cherry-picked routes, running them for huge profits instead of public services.
In Newcastle, Stagecoach ran the number 18 all day, seven days a week until 2010, then it scrapped evenings and Sundays because it wasn’t making money – forcing Nexus to subsidise Arriva to take over off-peak hours so Byker and Walker in the city’s deprived east end weren’t abandoned.

In the national chaos, the great British bus success is a London which Thatcher exempted from her deregulation fatwa – so city hall chiefs continue to set fares and routes. Passenger numbers have almost doubled in the capital over a period when, I’m told by experts, they’ve fallen 19% in rural areas and plummeted an average of 45% across ­conurbations such as Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands, a built-up area of Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear.
I travel regularly on buses in London and occasionally in North East England and I can assure you buses are better in the Big Smoke. And if a Souter predicting bus Armageddon thinks that Tory Mayor Boris Johnson is an ­“unreconstructed Stalinist” too, then that’s the ­belly-aching ­multimillionaire’s problem. 

Public vs private
The bus battle playing out in the North East is a ­microcosm of the wider debate about public services and the national economy, of the value of ­regulation and public ownership. Privatisation and deregulation works for loaded Souter and energy fatcats. But we need to build an economy and a country for the masses who pay the bills."

11 Dec 2013

Walsall: bus company prosecuted over death of worker

A bus company is being prosecuted for failing to ensure the safety of workers after a mechanic died when he was crushed between two vehicles at a Walsall depot. Lee Baker suffered brain damage following an accident at the National Express West Midlands garage in Carl Street, in October 2011. He died in hospital four months later.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched court proceedings against West Midlands Travel Ltd. The firm is accused of three counts of contravening a health and safety regulation. The allegations relate to failing to make a suitable assessment of health and safety risks which employees were exposed to, inadequate supervision and giving relevant information about the movement of vehicles.
The case has been listed for Walsall Magistrates Court on January 27 and no pleas have been entered at this stage. National Express West Midlands is the trading name of West Midlands Travel Ltd.

22 Nov 2013

Genoa, Italy: wildcat transport strike spreads

Workers at AMT, Genoa's public transportation company, are striking over new austerity measures and plans to privatise the operator. Workers from garbage and maintenance companies have joined the striking bus drivers in solidarity. Despite snarling traffic jams and other inconveniences, unions report widespread support among Genoan residents and other city workers.

The strike has been taking on a national significance, with groups of workers from other regions joining the protests in this city of 600,000 people. As the local employers refuse to negotiate, the workers are determined to escalate. They are planning a demonstration in Rome next week. Andrea Gamba of the CGIL union said "The assassin of public transport is here in Genoa - but we've got to go and find the boss who sent him. That's why we must go to Rome, with delegations from all over Italy."

19 Nov 2013

Stagecoach tries blackmail with threat to axe 500 buses

Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter has threatened to axe hundreds of buses if councils go ahead with takeover plans. Souter, who is one of Britain’s richest men, has said he will not work for a council-controlled bus network in Tyne and Wear.

He said he would rather axe 500 Stagecoach services and close depots than let councils have a say. He hit out at the “unreconstructed Stalinists” on the region’s transport authority as they prepare for London-style bus powers.
Under council-backed plans transport group Nexus is putting together what is expected to be the UK’s first Quality Contract, in which only buses with a council-contract can operate. The plans would introduce a similar system to that in London, in which Stagecoach operates at a profit. All buses would be branded the same, with local authorities setting fares, time tables and routes.

Call in the lawyers
Nexus came up with the plans amid concern the current bus network did not do enough to justify a multi-million pound council subsidy. Bus companies have consulted lawyers on fighting the plans, which Nexus said could be in place by 2015.
In the North East Labour has backed the bus plans, with Wearside MP Bridget Phillip leading a campaign for better bus services. She said: “From the start, Stagecoach’s opposition has been characterised by scaremongering and negative tactics. Under Quality Contracts, they would be free to bid to run routes exactly as they do in London. Mr Souter’s sole concern is to defend his inflated profit margins in the region. We need a bus system that works in the best interests of local people.”

14 Nov 2013

Metroline: rep suspended after raising safety concerns

Bosses at Metroline’s Willesden bus garage in north west London have suspended Unite union rep Robert Chung after he raised safety concerns. The disciplinary action could result in his dismissal. 
Robert refused to go back on the road during the storm that hit Britain two weeks ago after a falling tree narrowly missed his bus. Local trade unionists rightly point out that Robert acted as many union reps would to ensure safety. Unite members at the garage told Socialist Worker that they believe Robert is being victimised because he is an effective union rep.
Brent TUC has pledged full support for Robert and described the actions of management as “inhuman and vindictive”. It organised a solidarity protest at the garage on Friday of last week as the Unite rep faced a disciplinary hearing. The hearing decided to adjourn until 18 November. Unite members at Willesden garage should insist on a union mass meeting immediately to discuss how they can defend their rep and their union.


Network Warrington workers to vote on new offer

A three-day strike for a pay rise by workers at Network Warrington buses was called off on Sunday of last week. The firm says the dispute is “settled” but workers will have to vote on any new deal. The bus drivers and support staff are members of the Unite union. They previously rejected a proposed deal with no pay rise but a £200 lump sum. They struck several times in September and October.

5 Nov 2013

Strikes at First Worcester & Hereford cancelled

Strikes set to take place today and tomorrow have been cancelled. Unite has agreed to hold fresh talks with bus operators First, with the stoppages now scrapped. Walk-outs were planned for nine days during November and came about after 90 per cent of Unite members backed strikes.

1 Nov 2013

Dublin Bus: drivers to reballot on action

Drivers represented by Siptu at Dublin Bus are to ballot again next week on industrial action following their decision to reject narrowly (by a margin of 51% to 49%) the latest proposals on cost-saving measures at the company. The operator is to implement a controversial cost-cutting plan from Sunday 17 November, a move which could trigger confrontation with drivers.

In a statement to members at Dublin Bus earlier this week Siptu’s traffic committee said that although an earlier mandate for strike action was still valid it would be appropriate to reaffirm it “due to the changed and serious nature of the circumstances that are now in existence.”
It said these circumstances included the narrow rejection of the cost-saving proposals, the fact that the other union representing drivers in Dublin Bus had accepted the measures and the requirement for maximum unity of drivers in any campaign against unilateral changes to their working conditions.
The ballot on whether to take strike action in the event that Dublin Bus implemented the cost cutting proposals will be held on Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6 November.

Siptu represents around half of the 2,300 drivers at the State-owned transport company. Drivers represented by the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) voted to accept the latest proposals. Other grades of staff at the company, among them workers represented by SIPTU, have also agreed to accept the deal. 

First drivers to strike for nine days in Worcester and Hereford

A series of strikes is planned by members of Unite who work at First in Worcester and Hereford. The walkouts are due to take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, November 5 and 6, November 13 and 14 and November 21 and 22, followed by a 72-hour strike on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, November 28, 29 and 30. There will be pickets outside the bus stations and garages in Worcester and Hereford.
The decision to strike followed a ballot of Unite members. The union has about 180 members in Worcester and Hereford, of which 160 are drivers and about half of these voted in the ballot. Of those who voted, 90 per cent backed strike action.

Tom Keogh, regional officer of the union, said there had been a gradual erosion of union members’ terms and conditions over the last five months but that the strikes would be called off if they got a “clear commitment” from First.
He said drivers were losing about two-and-a-half hours a week in pay (about £25 per week per driver) because they were not being paid for extra work, including carrying out health and safety checks (tyres, lights, brakes, etc), cashing up and walking to their buses. He also said some drivers were losing up to £50 a week in terms of holiday pay.
“Morale among drivers is very low. Nobody likes going on strike. It is the very last weapon in our armoury,” Mr Keogh said. “The company is taking no notice of the drivers."

30 Oct 2013

Warrington bus workers throw out new offer

Bus workers at Network Warrington have called a three day strike against a pay freeze on 13-15 November. The Unite regional officer suspended action after bosses offered a £200 incentive last week. But workers voted by two to one to reject the new offer on Monday of this week. Send messages of support to omarfarjani@msn.com

16 Oct 2013

Network Warrington: workers strike again after 'insulting' offer

Frustrated bus workers at Network Warrington walked out again yesterday as part of a series of strikes over pay. Two more strikes are scheduled to take place on Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 31st October.
Richard Lawson, who has been working at the company for seven years, said: “We really do not want to be doing this but we have been forced into a corner because management aren’t prepared to talk to us... Four years ago, I enjoyed coming into work and getting up in the morning but that has changed. I have no confidence with the management.”

Bus driver Vinny Hawthorn, who has worked at the company for more than five and a half years, said the reaction he has received from the public has been positive: “A lot of my regulars have shown their support for the strike, saying ‘good luck’."

A good boy's day
Unite recently turned down an offer from the bus company following a meeting on Sunday. Bus company chairman Maureen Banner and executive directors met with Unite representatives where an offer was put forward.
It is believed that the workers were offered a £100 bonus payment to be paid in December and one extra day’s holiday if staff have a 100 per cent attendance record. But an overall majority declined the offer amid allegations that the offer was ‘insulting’.
Ron Gaffney, who has worked at the company for 13 years, said: “We have been calling it a ‘good boy’s day’ as we have to be good and not have any day off to be entitled to the extra day.”

9 Oct 2013

Fifty years on : How we organised to break racism on Bristol buses

Fifty years ago, black people in Bristol organised a boycott of Bristol buses. Campaign leaders addressed an anniversary meeting last week. Socialist Worker's Ken Olende spoke to some of them.

Fifty years ago a campaign on Bristol buses struck a major blow against racism. Paul Stephenson kicked off a boycott of Bristol buses because Bristol Omnibus Company bosses refused to hire black people as drivers or conductors. They did so even though they were short of workers. And the local Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) backed them up.
Paul said, “Fifty years ago [in Britain] if you were a person of colour you couldn’t become a policeman, a firefighter, a senior teacher, a landlord, a head teacher. You could become a cleaner. Black people were seen as below white people.”

Inspired by the civil rights movement
Paul was inspired by Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama in the US. He led a group of young black people to expose what was happening. Paul organised a boycott of Bristol’s buses until the ban on hiring black workers was scrapped.
Students organised a march through the city, past the bus station to Transport House. One priest said at the beginning that it was only “Christians or communists” who opposed the ban. But campaigners got support from much of the black and white population of Bristol—and within four months the company backed down.

A city of slavery
Paul said, “When I moved to Bristol it was a different game. There was a clear feeling that black people were inferior. I was aware that racism wasn’t new to the city. It had been a city of slavery. Half a million Africans were shipped as slaves across the Atlantic in Bristol ships. Bristol has a special duty to stand up against fascism and racism.”
About 3,000 West Indians lived in Bristol in the early 1960s. The colour bar was quite legal at the time. But the bus boycott won a promise from Labour leader Harold Wilson to make racial discrimination illegal if Labour was elected.
In 1955 bus crews in the Bristol TGWU reportedly passed a motion calling for no black workers on buses. The other part of the union branch, maintenance, voted the other way, and black workers were employed in the garages.
Racism on the buses in Bristol was worse than in many other cities because it was the only major city in Britain not to have a nationalised service. This meant that bus crews had suffered a relative decline in wages since the war. More than half their wages came from overtime.
Workers did split shifts—one conductor reported working days of 6.30am to 9am, 11.45am-2pm and 3.30pm-6pm. With these conditions the company had a very high turnover and a constant labour shortage. It employed 2,000 people with a turnover of 600 a year.

An embarrassment for the TGWU
White bus crews at the time took a racist position rather than looking to the union’s strength to defend them. One said, “When old Beeching [the chairman of British Railways] drops his axe there won’t be enough work for the white people, let alone the blacks. We’ve got to look after our own people.”
Other crew members accepted crude racist stereotypes. One woman conductor said, “I wouldn’t like to work with them at night”. The colour bar became a national embarrassment for the TGWU. Its regional secretary, Ron Nethercott, later denied the union had ever supported it.

Treated like trash
Paul said, “Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement inspired me. I thought, what is happening in England? Racism is on the march. It will not be defeated unless we defeat it. We owe it to our children and grandchildren that they will not have to live in a society where human beings are treated like trash.
 “I was born and bred in Britain. I lived in London. As a young child during the war, I was evacuated to the Essex countryside. I never saw another black person. My mother would come down and see me. People found it strange to see a black woman in army uniform.
“After the war I lived in Newham in east London. I was the only black child in my school throughout my education. We have an enormous duty to bear on what happens to our own children. What’s happening in Greece now is frightening. Anyone who said racism and fascism don’t exist any longer has another thing coming.”
On 28 August 1963 Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech in Washington. The bus company finally gave in that same day—and scrapped the colour bar on Bristol buses.

Guy remembers ‘As a young teenager I attended the Boy’s Brigade. Then I started a youth club next door to that. Paul Stephenson was a youth coordinator, employed by the authorities to work with young black boys and girls.
He wanted to run an educational programme to help young people, with English, maths and so on. He started evening classes at the youth club. I got to know him really well. He was a vibrant young man.
He was aware of the colour situation and challenging the colour bar. There were so many places we couldn’t go. We couldn’t go to the pub. The only place we could really go to was local churches.
I wasn’t yet 18, but in those days you would be employed at 16 or 17, though you had to be 21 to get a man’s pay. They were always advertising for bus drivers, conductors and that sort of thing.
Paul thought we could challenge the bus company. So we applied. He arranged the appointment. On the day we rang up an hour before the interview to confirm. I remember it specifically, it was for 2pm at the bus company.
I turned up dressed in my blazer and a nice tie and shirt. The receptionist looked a bit surprised and said, ‘Can I help you?’. I said I was here for the interview and she said, ‘No, we’re expecting a Mr Guy Bailey.’ I said that was me.

'The two o'clock is here, but he's black'
She called through to the manager and said, ‘The two o’clock is here, but he’s black.’ I heard him say back, ‘Tell him all vacancies are filled.’ So it kicked off from there. Later that manager said to me that it wasn’t about how suitable I was, but that if he employed me he would be displeasing his bus crews.
I went back and told Paul. He was really mad about this. We met up that evening to decide what to do. I remember him pacing up and down in the classroom.
We went down to see the big boss at the bus company the day after, but he almost physically threw Paul out. So we went down to the TGWU offices. We thought the union had to support us, because we were members.
“The regional secretary at the time was Ron Nethercott. I’ll never forget his long moustache! He decided to support the bus company. So we started the boycott. Tony Benn was MP for the ward we all lived in and he was shadow transport minister. We met him, and he gave us support and helped us organise.

Support from students
In the end we won because the colour bar was draconian conservatism. The barrier had to be broken. And we went on protests, through the media and organising locally. We marched. Students from the university supported us big time.
It took about four months before they backed down and employed the first black bus driver, Mr Singh. It’s much easier to raise these issues now, though sadly racism is still very much with us.”

Roy recalls ‘I came to Somerset to help build Hinkley Point power station. The road that runs behind this centre is Ashley Road. It has big old houses with big doorways. On my first night in Bristol I had to sleep in one of them because no one would rent me a room.
After that I did find a place to rent further down the street on Lower Ashley Road. We had to share. One family there was a mother, father and four kids in one room. I shared with my cousin. He’d been here since he was demobbed from the RAF.
He went to the London School of Economics and trained as an accountant, but no one would give him work. In the end he went back to Jamaica. We formed the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee, the CCC. We wanted to do something about the area we lived in. We read that we lived in a ghetto, but it wasn’t we who made it like that. So we organised the CCC to do something about it.

Organising the boycott
At first we met in people’s front rooms. We drank fish tea soup and listened to calypso and discussed what to do. The CCC ran the boycott. I was a shift worker, so I had time to go round and organise. I couldn’t do anything where I might end up in front of a camera, because the firm I worked for might see my face.
So I stayed in the background. I got people to go into the road to block the buses. We used to stop them as they had to go through a one way street. We had a lot of help from white people. There were students and a lot of women. They’d drop the kids at school then come and chat to us.”

A pamphlet about this hidden history
Last week's  meeting also marked the republishing of the pamphlet Black and White on the Buses by Madge Dresser. Madge explained how she came to write the history of the boycott. She said, “I think people reading it now will be surprised just how overt racism was in the 1960s. I was born in Los Angeles. My university tutor was Angela Davis. So when I came to Bristol in 1972 and heard people talking about ‘darkies’, I couldn’t believe it. When I was writing in the 1980s the trade unions didn’t want to discuss the boycott. But, I felt the story needed to be told.”
The pamphlet is available from Bookmarks bookshop, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. Phone 020 7637 1848

7 Oct 2013

Arriva Buses Wales could cut 46 jobs by Christmas

Bus passengers are shocked after learning a large section of the bus network around Aberystwyth is to be scrapped. A depot in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, and stations in New Quay and Lampeter and Dolgellau could shut on 21 December following a consultation with staff. That would mean the cancellation of buses 20, 40, 40C, 50, 585 and X94 from the same date.
Arriva Buses Wales blamed public transport funding and fuel costs. Up to 46 jobs could be lost. Ceredigion council said it was not made aware of the possible cuts before the announcement was made and called for changes. The Welsh government said it was "naturally disappointed" by Arriva's proposal but it was a "commercial matter for the company".

13 Sep 2013

Cheshire: drivers to strike once a week for a pay rise

Bus workers at Network Warrington have started the first in a series of strikes in a dispute over pay. Staff at the bus company have been told there will be no pay rise for them this year, for the first time in 16 years. Network Warrington is an unusual operator in that it is run by the borough council.
The drivers say the action has also been taken because of their concerns about the way the company is being run. They will walk out one day a week for the next seven weeks in a move which has paralysed the majority of the buses. The next strike will be on Saturday 21 September.

3 Sep 2013

Paraguay: sacked drivers crucify themselves in protest

Eight Paraguayan bus drivers, who were reportedly fired from their jobs after demanding better pay and conditions, haved nail themselves to crosses in Luque, a town north of the capital, Asuncion.
The men have been lying nailed to crosses through their hands for 23 days, and have vowed to continue their protest until they are reinstated. Union leader Juan Villalba, one of the drivers crucified, said they would not give up their protest until all are reinstated. Mr Villalba claimed they had been sacked after asking for overtime pay, medical insurance and state pension contributions.
The drivers' wives are also taking turns to be nailed to crosses alongside their husbands. One appealed to the country's president to come witness their "inhuman situation". "I am joining in today. Tomorrow it will be another mum, and the following day it could be another, because we have to defend our rights," she said.
The manager of the Vanguardia bus company, Aufredi Paredes, said five of the drivers would be re-hired, but the group are refusing to return until all eight are reinstated.

Guernsey: CT Plus drivers to strike this week

Guernsey's bus drivers have voted for a two-day strike in a dispute over working hours. The action, to take place on Wednesday and Thursday, was agreed at a meeting on Sunday evening.
Unite official Bob Lanning said he was not at the meeting but he would be talking to drivers in the hope of avoiding the industrial action. Mr Lanning, who is based on the mainland, is flying to the island later on a pre-arranged visit to discuss the drivers' ongoing dispute.
In a statement the operator CT Plus said: "This action is unilateral and has not been conducted through or supported by the union, with whom we have been consulting and negotiating."
Drivers previously took industrial action for one day in June and called off a planned weekend strike.

A report on Sunday's meeting
Bus drivers said the move was not about money but was ‘an act of desperation’ against unethical working rotas and health and safety issues. A total of 25 of the 43 drivers attended Sunday night’s meeting at which 23 voted to strike and two abstained. The majority of other drivers are thought also to be in support, however. 

Drivers say they are often working from 6.30am to 9.30pm with a five- or six-hour break in the middle for which they do not get paid. Alternatively, some drivers are working 12-hour shifts with breaks of only 30 minutes.

14 Aug 2013

Jersey bus workers to strike for five days

71 workers at LibertyBus (run by CT Plus) will strike for five days this month – in a bid to get a sacked colleague reinstated.  The strikes will be from 22 to 24 August and 27 to 30 August.
Nick Corbel, Unite regional officer, said the 66 drivers and five other staff felt very strongly about the driver's dismissal. They had previously voted overwhelmingly, in two separate ballots, for strike action over a decision by LibertyBus to sack two drivers and the imposition of excessive shift patterns.
Mr Corbel said the case of the second driver had been settled and talks about the shift patterns were continuing with the guidance of the Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service.

26 Jul 2013

Jersey: bus workers to strike over shifts and sackings

Bus workers employed by CT Plus have voted to strike over new shift patterns and the dismissal of drivers. A 24-hour strike was held on 30 December by bus drivers working for the previous operator Connex. CT Plus took over the island's service on 2 January.
The company also took over Guernsey's bus services last year. Drivers there staged a one-day strike on 10 June over concerns about new shift patterns. Further strikes were averted after the company agreed to make changes.

19 Jul 2013

First Midland drivers balloted for strikes

Bus drivers in Worcester could strike during the first day of the school summer holidays. 149 First Midland drivers in Worcestershire and Herefordshire are being balloted over the prospect of a walkout because of changes to their working conditions. Unite says its members didn’t agree to them, and it has left them worse off.
According to Unite, the drivers’ working weeks have dropped from 39 to 37 hours, and they now don’t get paid for carrying out ‘walk around’ checks of the vehicles. Should they vote to strike, the earliest they could down tools would be on Monday 22 July.

9 Jul 2013

South Africa: indefinite strike over nepotism

Metrobus drivers began an indefinite strike in Johannesburg yesterday. The SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) says drivers are demanding the suspension of Metrobus's acting managing director. The union wants Lawrence Maqekoane investigated for allegedly violating company policies.
They’re unhappy about the use of a behavioural assessment policy in the company’s recruitment process – fearing it could be open to manipulation, and it's raising concerns of possible nepotism. Samwu wants him out of office so he can't interfere with the investigation.
Hundreds of commuters were forced to use taxis, with Metrobus operating at less than 20 percent capacity.

24 Jun 2013

Sweden: transport strike spreads

Bus drivers and other public transport workers in Sweden are striking over low wages and employment conditions. It started off in three cities, including Stockholm. But today it has been expanded to others across the country. About 1,400 staff were involved in the first wave of action.
Unions are demanding that scheduling is reviewed to prevent the current situation of up to 13-hour days with few breaks. Further demands include a salary increase of 1,760 kronor (£170) per month over three years, and an employment guarantee when a new operator takes over bus services.

18 Jun 2013

Bangladesh: indefinite strike for pay parity

Bus services in ten districts of Khulna came to a halt yesterday morning, as workers in the Bangladesh Transport Workers’ Federation began an indefinite strike. They are demanding pay parity for drivers, supervisors and helpers on different routes.
Union leaders say the operators are paying Tk 1200 to a driver, Tk 500 to a supervisor and Tk 450 to a helper for a round trip on Dhaka-Chittagong route – but they are only paying Tk 900, Tk 350 and Tk 370 for the respective jobs on different routes.

17 Jun 2013

Guernsey: drivers may strike again this weekend

Bus drivers have warned CT Plus it has until end of business on Thursday to make improvements to their working conditions or else they will go on strike at the weekend. Around 20 drivers met last night to discuss whether the bus operator had made enough progress in dealing with their concerns over unfair and unsafe working conditions.
A driver who attended the meeting, but who wanted to remain anonymous, said there were mixed feelings. ‘Some drivers just want to get back to work for the money, but some of them wanted to go on strike again, but we don’t want to alienate the public and so have given some notice this time. ‘It is not about pay, it is about the terms and conditions and making it safer,’ he said.

12 Jun 2013

Guernsey: carrots and sticks after wildcat strike

A Guernsey bus driver, who acts as a Unite union representative for staff at CT Plus, has been suspended. It follows a day of unofficial strike action by drivers, and has sparked upset amongst colleagues as negotiations continue to resolve the dispute between drivers and the operator.

More strikes possible
The service was brought to a near stand-still on Monday by an unofficial wildcat strike, after drivers voted to stage a walkout the night before. Drivers are meeting again at the weekend to discuss the possibility of further strike action. It follows months of rowing over pay, conditions, shift-times and safety concerns.
CT Plus insist that the suspension has nothing to do with the strike action or the ongoing row. Unite regional officer Bob Lanning said the suspension would make conducting negotiations with the men more difficult than it currently was. Mr Lanning is due to fly into the island today (Weds) in an effort to speak to them.
The company has reportedly offered each driver £100 Co-op vouchers, to ease their complaints about a pay
freeze. Mr Lanning, who has asked for a consolidated pay rise for the men until October, said the deal on the table at the moment was not good enough.

Working to rule
The ongoing bus row has seen drivers make a point of how they will not exceed 25 mile per hour speed limit while running services this week, even if they are late.
As well as 'working to rule', which means sticking to contracted hours and no extra shifts or sickness cover, drivers say they will not break the speed limit despite the vehicles have had the mechanical speed limiter changed so it can allow for faster speeds. CT Plus have confirmed the limiter was changed so buses can reach speeds of 30mph, even though the legal limit for those vehicles is 25mph.

'An accident waiting to happen'

Bus drivers have denounced CT Plus promises after talks held in the wake of strikes and have said that, without significant changes, the service is an ‘accident waiting to happen’.
Speaking on condition of anonymity the drivers said the strike was not about money, but conditions. ‘I would not let my kids use the bus,’ said one, ‘because you have got drivers who have been working non-stop all day. They are too tired to continue – it [our timetable] is too much and too dangerous.’
The timetable has been designed in such a way, they said, that ‘if you are late for your first stop, you are late for your last’ and there is no time for them to take breaks.
‘You have drivers working endless hours, only have a few hours sleep and then return to work. There is not even any time for a toilet break.’ Tired drivers at the wheel meant, sooner or later, there will be a ‘big accident’, they said.

10 Jun 2013

Guernsey: CT Plus drivers walk out

Major travel disruption is expected today due to a bus driver strike. Thirty drivers met last night and voted unanimously to walk out. It follows significant unrest at CT Plus, which has faced staff shortages in recent weeks, leading to cancellations and delays. The drivers have also chosen to work to rule for the rest of the week.
Unite regional officer Bob Lanning, who represents the men, said they were unhappy with the way they were being treated by the company. “They have several grievances and the first is pay. They have been offered a pay freeze and apparently eight drivers are being shipped in from the mainland, put up in hotels and their flights paid for.”
Mr Lanning said this had aggravated the men, who had heard that the new drivers would be guaranteed 50 hours a week. He added that staff also had concerns about changes to their ‘duty’ cards, which affected their working hours and breaks. Guernsey’s lack of employment legislation means the men could be at risk of losing their jobs due to the walkout.

29 May 2013

Isle of Man: twelve day strike hits hard as contingency plans fail

Drivers at Bus Vannin began a 12-day strike on Saturday. They are involved in a dispute with the state-owned operator about £300,000 of cuts, and changes to drivers’ terms and conditions. For most drivers this would mean a £3,000 pay cut.
The island government's contingency plans have already failed. They tried to recruit enough scabs to keep to the normal timetable, but yesterday found this was impossible. They are now attempting to run a bank-holiday service.
The industrial action has been timed for maximum impact. It comes as the island hosts its annual TT Race (for many years this was the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world, and still plays an essential part in the island's economy).
The leader of the Liberal Party on the island, Peter Karran, has criticised Bus Vannin. He claims the dispute is a smokescreen for the government's real agenda – which is to privatise the service.

22 May 2013

Metroline driver Gerry Downing reinstated

Sacked driver and Unite union member Gerry Downing has won his job back in a successful appeal. Gerry works for Metroline at the Willesden garage in north London. Supporters held a solidarity picket outside his hearing.

21 May 2013

Isle of Man: government appeals for scabs

Casual bus drivers are being recruited on the Isle of Man ahead of a proposed 12-day strike. The Department of Community, Culture and Leisure (DCCL) is looking for drivers with a Public Passenger Vehicle licence to help out between Saturday 25 May and Wednesday 5 June.
The walkout over pay and conditions will be the fifth since December. The proposed strike will coincide with the Isle of Man TT races and GCSE and A-Level students examinations.

14 May 2013

South Africa: national strike wins 9.5% pay rise

South Africa's 25-day national bus strike has come to an end. On Monday, striking drivers accepted a 9.5% increase, retroactive to 1 April. This will increase to 10% from 1 October. The agreement period ends on 30 June next year. (The official inflation rate is 6%.)
SATAWU union spokesman Vincent Masoga said the strike had been worth it: “Our members are not 100% about the offer, but they have accepted it and it will make a difference, especially the 10%. There will be a real increase and it will not be eaten by inflation."
Ismail Meyer, a striker at Golden Arrow, said “For us it was not about this year alone. Many of us have felt unhappy with our wage increases in previous years, but just accepted it. This strike was our way of standing up to the employers, to show them we are strong and will not be exploited.”

Ireland: Bus Eireann strike suspended for talks

A crippling bus strike that left tens of thousands of people around the country stranded has been suspended for 48 hours. Up to 95% of Bus Eireann services had been cancelled as a result of the strike, which was provoked by a plan to save 5 million euros.
Bus Eireann management and the National Bus and Rail Union held exploratory talks at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) without preconditions. More than 70,000 passengers a day were being affected by the strike, which ran for two days and cost the company 400,000 euros. A company spokesman confirmed workers would lift the pickets and return to work to allow for "two days of intensive talks".

13 May 2013

Ireland: government fears indefinite bus strike will inspire others

About 1,000 workers at Bus Eireann began an indefinite strike against yesterday. The action is by members of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) who are resisting attacks on their pay and conditions. The operator said that 95% of its services were hit, as staff from other unions refused to cross the picket lines.

Talks with other unions
The Government is desperate to resolve the impasse quickly amid concern that an ongoing strike among the bus workers could encourage others onto the pickets. The ruling coalition is especially sensitive because industrial relations troubleshooter Kieran Mulvey is currently locked in talks with public sector unions in order to strike a deal on making €300m in savings. But if those talks break down without a deal, then the Government has insisted it will legislate for pay cuts across the board. Frontline workers including nurses and gardai have warned of industrial action if this takes place.

'A showcase dispute'
A senior government source admitted it was pressing hard to get the Bus Eireann dispute resolved – given the potential for it to be followed by industrial action by other public sector workers. "No one wants the bus strike to take off in terms of a showcase dispute," he said. None of the 650 drivers in the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union took part in the strike, as the union is awaiting the outcome of a ballot on May 16. But they are refusing to cross picket lines.

Breach of contract

The Bus Eireann strike action centres on the implementation of a €5m cost-cutting plan. The strike is affecting 300 rural and intercity bus routes nationwide. Michael Faherty, NBRU general secretary, claimed the bus firm had forced the strike action by implementing a cost-cutting plan which he described as a breach of employment contract.
Bus Eireann's plan includes a 20% cut to a range of allowance and expense payments, a reduction of overtime rates, longer working hours and a cut in shift payments.

9 May 2013

Isle of Man: big vote for further strikes

Bus drivers in the Isle of Man have voted overwhelmingly in favour of further strike action, Unite has confirmed. They are involved in a dispute with state-owned Bus Vannin about plans to introduce a £3,000 pay cut.
Unite regional officer Eric Holmes said 73 of the 77 drivers balloted voted in favour of action. He said the next strike must happen before the end of the month. It could coincide with the Isle of Man TT races (practice week starts on 25 May). The drivers have already walked out in December, January and February over the planned cuts.

7 May 2013

South Africa: national bus strike enters third week

Unions involved in the nationwide bus strike are planning a host of protest marches this week as they intensify the industrial action. Drivers have been on strike for over two weeks now. They are demanding a pay hike of 18 percent, while employers are offering 9 percent. Negotiations deadlocked for a third time last week.
Driver Edward Mcdonald said even though he was not currently able to pay all his bills, he was positive that it will be worth the sacrifice. “We don’t actually worry about sacrificing right now, all we want is our two digits, and if they do not agree during negotiations then something really bad is going to happen here."

25 Apr 2013

South Africa: after talks fail the union consults on solidarity action

An indefinite strike by almost 30,000 bus drivers continues, and could spread to other sectors of transportation. Yesterday's talks between unions and the Bus Employers Association failed to resolve wage negotiations. However, the SA Transport and Workers Union (Satawu) and the Transport and Omnibus Workers Union (Towu) lowered their initial salary demand from 18% to 13% while the Bus Employers Association raised their counter offer from 6.5% to 8%.
During the talks in Johannesburg, about 800 protesting drivers in Athlone were singing “even if we die we don’t fear” and shouted “To hell with the increase that bosses are offering – it is time for the government to take over the industry.”

The strike is expected to spread to the luxury bus sector today. This morning Vincent Masoga, spokesman for Satawu, reiterated the union’s intention to consult with workers in road, rail and ocean freight about a solidarity strike.

24 Apr 2013

South Africa: talks today as strike spreads

The SA Transport and Workers Union (Satawu) is meeting with the Bus Employers' Association today. They say they are confident a solution will be found to the on-going bus strike. Close to 30,000  drivers are participating in the nationwide strike over pay. However, that figure is likely to rise tomorrow as drivers in the luxury bus sector intend to join the action. Drivers are demanding an pay 18% increase.

22 Apr 2013

South Africa: national strike over wages

Drivers at operators across South Africa began a  strike over wages on Friday. The companies hit included the nation's largest, Putco, which runs 1,600 buses. Workers are asking for an 18 percent wage rise, but the employers have only offered 2.5 percent, according to the SATAWU union.
The drivers are also demanding a minimum wage of R6,000 (£426) a month across the industry, a R1,000 (£71) housing allowance, and an increase in medical aid contributions.

18 Apr 2013

China: drivers strike over welfare benefits

Drivers in Shaoyang city in Central China's Hunan province went on strike on Tuesday, leaving most of the city's bus service suspended. Sources suggest that drivers struck because of a dispute over welfare benefits. The number of drivers participating is unknown.

12 Apr 2013

Wildcat strike hits Rome

Drivers working for Roma TPL walked out on Wednesday in protest over late payment of wages. The operator employs 1,700 people and runs 83 routes in the suburbs of the Italian capital. About 20 of them were hit by the strike. It follows a series of pay cuts by the operator, who are pleading poverty due to a reduction in government subsidies.

28 Mar 2013

Isle of Man: next strike to be 3 April

Bus Vannin drivers have voted for further strike action in a long-running dispute with the government over proposals to introduce a £3,000 pay cut. The drivers will stage two separate walkouts on 3 April, from 7.30-9.30am and 3-5pm. The drivers have already struck in December, January, February and March.

15 Mar 2013

Strikes called off at Go North East

Three days of strike action scheduled by North-East bus drivers has been called off after a revised pay offer was made. Members of Unite employed by Go North East were due to walk out today, Monday and next Saturday. However, following discussions between the operator and the union, a revised deal will be balloted on.
The revised offer consists of three parts – a two per cent increase backdated to July 1, 2012; a further 0.5 per cent from April 1, 2013 and a final two per cent from July 1, 2013. Go North East said the increased offer would be funded through productivity improvements which would be the subject of further negotiation.

The new pay offer differs very little from the previous one, which drivers rejected. It even has strings attached. At the moment even the official inflation rate (RPI) is running at 3.3%. A pay 'rise' at anything less than that figure is really a pay cut.

12 Mar 2013

Three days of strikes announced at Go North East

Go North East face a series of strikes across North East England from Friday 15 March. They are in response to a below inflation pay offer, and will involve 1,435 workers.

The company offered a two per cent pay increase for 2012/3 which was rejected by the drivers. The company then made a second offer - a two year deal - which simply repeated the operator's original offer for 2012/3 plus an offer of 2.5 per cent in 2013/4. Predictably, the offer was rejected. 


In 2012 Go North East made £7.2 million in profit and is on target to make £7.4 million in 2013. It is part of the giant Go-Ahead group, and operates services in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, County Durham and Teeside.

Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said: "The company's below inflation pay offer means a pay cut in real terms when prices are going up. The drivers take home £240 a week, they are struggling to support their families, with some having to rely on benefits." 

The 24 hour stoppages will be on 15, 18 and 23 March. The strike ballot saw a 77% turn out, with 60% voting for strikes


28 Feb 2013

Singapore jails drivers for inciting strikes

Four bus drivers have been jailed for up to seven weeks for organising Singapore's first strike in 26 years. The two-day strike last November involved Chinese drivers at the state-controlled SMRT transport company. They were protesting about pay and conditions.
Gao Yue Qiang, Liu Xiangying and Wang Xianjie each received six weeks in jail for conspiring to launch a strike, while He Jun Ling, 32, received an additional week for posting a comment on social media encouraging others to take part. The Straits Times said the four men, all of whom worked at SMRT, had pleaded guilty.

Deterrent sentences
Judge See Kee Oon said the strike had had the potential to "severely affect the daily lives of all commuters" and that the sentence had to be "of sufficient duration to signal its deterrent intent". Singapore has already jailed one bus driver for six weeks and deported 29 others over the incident.
The maximum sentence for illegal striking in Singapore is a year in jail and a fine of 2,000 Singapore dollars (£1,000).
The strike, which was joined by more than 100 drivers who had been recruited from China, drew attention to Singapore's policies on foreign, low-skilled labour. The drivers were protesting about the salaries, which they said were lower than those of drivers from other countries, and about the standard of their accommodation, provided by SMRT. The company denied discrimination, and said the difference in wages was because the Chinese workers were given accommodation.

Isle of Man: drivers to strike on 6 March

Isle of Man bus drivers have voted for further strike action in a long-running dispute with the island's government over measures which include a £3,000 pay cut. The Bus Vannin drivers will stage two separate walkouts on Wednesday 6 March, the Unite union confirmed. A spokesman said drivers would hold stoppages from 7.30-9:30am and from 3-5pm.
The decision was taken following a meeting between union leaders and drivers on Monday. Unite's Bobby Moreton said drivers voted "unanimously in favour of escalating their industrial action". He added: "We are unwilling to accept that the government can impose a £60 per week loss on our people just on rates of pay - that's before they take away sick and holiday pay." The drivers have already staged walkouts in December, January and February.

19 Feb 2013

Analysis: How British operators are leading the attack on bus workers in the States

The following is part of a longer article on the recent strike by school bus drivers in New York City:
In the school bus industry, [privatization] proceeded at a somewhat slower pace [than the rest of the transport industry]. Many school boards and local governments still operate their own school buses to this day. However, privatization has accelerated rapidly since the onset of the economic crisis five years ago. Budget crises at the state and local levels have been used to transfer busing into the hands of for-profit operators. Across the country approximately 35 percent of school bus routes are now operated by the private sector.

Unpaid overtime
In New York City, competitive bidding has resulted in dozens of bus companies scrambling to offer service at the lowest price. Currently some 45 companies hold school bus contracts in New York City. While the Employee Protection Provisions (EPP) affords drivers and attendants a minimum level of job security, wages themselves have been held low. Companies find other ways to extract cost savings. Workers say they are often compelled to work overtime without additional pay and must shoulder the burden themselves of tolls and violations outside of their control.
By attempting to remove the EPP contract requirements, New York City is opening itself up to larger companies who have thus far refrained from bidding on account of relatively higher labor costs. Cornering the New York City market—and its $1 billion plus yearly student transportation payments—would mean a windfall in profits for any such company.
First Student, Inc., the largest school bus company in the US, reportedly offered up a bid for the first time. The company, three times the size of its nearest competitor, has grown rapidly since 1999 through mergers and acquisitions.

Its parent company, UK-based FirstGroup, originated from the deregulation of the UK municipal bus operations in the 1980s. The company, which also owns Greyhound, entered the US student transportation market in 1999 with the acquisition of Ryder Student Transportation and expanded much further with the $3.6 billion takeover of Laidlaw in 2007. Today it operates in 42 states, transporting nearly a quarter of the 26 million students who take school buses each day.
Key to First Student’s success has been attacking the working conditions of its drivers, pushing low wages, bare-bones health insurance coverage, and no guaranteed hours. A number of labor skirmishes with First Student have erupted recently, including in New Haven, Connecticut and Portland, Oregon. New Haven drivers walked off the job in September of last year protesting poverty level wages. Also last year, a federal judge ruled against First Student for unfair labor practices and refusing to bargain in good faith, awarding Portland drivers two years of back pay.

Part-time conditions
First Student dominates the New York City suburbs on Long Island. Its workers there are little more than casual employees, guaranteed only six hours a day, with little or no benefits. These miserable part-time conditions are overseen by ATU Local 1181, which bargains for drivers.
Like the airline and trucking industry, the student transportation business is consolidating in the hands of a few major monopolies with far larger resources and geographic reach. After decades in which workers suffered the devastating impact of bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions, and the loss of their jobs and pensions, a few major players are now in position to reap vast profits based on a sharp reduction in labor costs overseen by the unions themselves.

National Express
In addition to First Student, other conglomerates that dominate the US market include Durham School Services [a subsidiary of the UK-based National Express Group] that is actively preparing to bring in replacement drivers in the event of a strike in two South Carolina counties. School bus workers in that state start at $10.50 an hour.
The third largest is Student Transportation Inc., based in New Jersey, which dominates many rural and suburban areas. The biggest in New York City, Staten Island-based Atlantic Express Transportation Group, is owned by hedge fund Greenwich Street Capital and had revenues of $440 million last year. All of the companies anticipate that further acquisitions and privatization will promise large profits for years to come.

12 Feb 2013

Isle of Man: drivers reject latest offer

Bus drivers in the Isle of Man have voted against a deal which the Manx government had hoped would rule out plans for more industrial action. Bus Vannin drivers took industrial action in December and January over new measures including a £3,000 pay cut.
In a secret ballot yesterday, 56 of 79 voters rejected the new deal, the terms of which have not been made public. Eric Holmes from the Unite union said a decision on whether or not there will be further strike action will be made at a members meeting.

Wilts and Dorset vote 70% for strikes

Drivers in the South West of England have voted for strikes after managers warned their jobs were at risk unless they accepted severe cuts to their working conditions. The ballot of 500 workers showed 70% in favour of strikes with an even bigger majority voting for other forms of action.
RMT members at Wilts and Dorset buses, a subsidiary of Go-Ahead, are angry after managers enforced changes to their shifts, changed sign-on and sign-off times and imposed unpaid meal breaks – all meaning staff would work longer for less. The company is also threatening that routes could be terminated and the company could pull out all together if staff don’t bend the knee and accept severe cuts to their working conditions.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “ The last accounts for the company show that pre-tax profits increased by 44% to £9.447m – money earned off the back of the workforce – but even that isn’t enough for this crowd as they look to turn the screw with an assault on working conditions that would see staff running round like serfs with barely a minute for a breather." Strike dates have not been named yet.

31 Jan 2013

Guernsey: strike threat wins concessions

Guernsey's bus company has back-tracked on plans to bring in changes to drivers' work rosters. Drivers and management met to discuss proposals that previously led to a threat of strike action.
CT Plus had wanted to half the number of long weekends the men received and shorten the sign-on/sign-off time they were given to check their vehicles at the start and end of shifts. The plans infuriated drivers who used the long weekends to visit their families on the mainland.
The company agreed to postpone the changes after it became clear the men were prepared to walk out, but now they have made a final decision not to introduce them. Unite regional officer Bob Lanning represented the men. He said the meeting had gone well and a monthly forum had been set up to prevent communication problems in future.
But while the two sides have settled their differences for the time being, pay negotiations are due to start in February for a cost of living increase this year. Mr Lanning said the men had received a two percent rise last year but their accommodation had gone up by eight percent.

New York: operators try to break two-week strike

On Tuesday, private school bus companies contracted to the New York City Department of Education (DOE) sought to break the two-week strike of 8,800 drivers, matrons (children’s attendants), and mechanics by using scabs to cross the picket line. 
The Staten Island Bus Company sent out 68 school buses from its yard on Meredith Avenue, allegedly driving 59 of the 113 routes that the DOE has contracted to it.
The buses were driven by members of another non-striking union, United Service Workers Local 355, accompanied by other drivers who had been hastily trained to serve as scab matrons. The matrons at the company are members of Amalgamated Transit Union 1181, which represents the 8,800 strikers.

The scabbing was carried out in direct collaboration with the administration of New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, which issued an emergency order last week allowing matrons to be put on buses with only four hours of special training, instead of the usual 20. Striking workers gathered outside the yard to express their outrage and were forced to stand behind barricades with a heavy police presence. One driver got out of his bus and refused to cross the picket line, to the resounding cheers of the strikers.
Strikers said that drivers who work at the Little Richie bus company are being forced to do runs from Stillwell Avenue yards in Brooklyn and Hunts Point in the Bronx. These drivers are being threatened with the loss of their jobs unless they cross the picket lines.

Broad support
Many other drivers who are not members of Local 1181 have refused to cross picket lines, called in sick or sought early retirement. There is broad support for the strike throughout the city, including among teachers and transit workers in the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).
Bloomberg provoked the strike when he instructed the DOE to issues bids for service for next year’s school bus contract that eliminated a critical clause known as the Employee Protection Provision (EPP). The EPP guarantees the jobs of bus drivers regardless of which companies win the bids, requiring them to hire the existing workers based on seniority rights in terms of both wages and picking their routes. Without the EPP, bus companies will be able to slash wages to minimal levels.

23 Jan 2013

Wilts and Dorset balloted for strikes

RMT will be balloting nearly 500 members across Wilts and Dorset buses for both strike action and action short of a strike in response to an all-out attack by the company on working conditions.
Wilts and Dorset is part of the giant Go-Ahead Group southern buses division which racked up a 44% increase in pre-tax profits to £9.447m in its last accounts. It has unleashed a series of attacks that will mean enforced changes to shifts, sign-on and sign off times, the imposition of unpaid meal breaks and a general assault on working conditions that will leave staff working longer and harder hours for less in return.
In addition, the company is now openly threatening that routes could be terminated and the company could pull out all together if staff don’t bend the knee and accept severe cuts to their working conditions. The ballot runs from 23 January to 7 February.

14 Jan 2013

Ireland: unions pull back from strike

Key Labour Court talks are to take place this week in Dublin in a bid to resolve a festering dispute in Bus Eireann. The threat of industrial action at the company that provides bus services across Ireland has been lifted for now, after 12 hours of talks at the Labour Relations Commission ended on Friday night.
The National Bus and Rail Union had threatened to down tools yesterday if the operator went ahead with cuts for its 2,500 staff. However, after the LRC talks, the company said both sides had agreed to attend a Labour Court hearing as soon as possible.
The NBRU had threatened to strike immediately over wage cuts, while Siptu and TSSA planned to walk out on Thursday. Bus Eireann said it has agreed to defer implementing its plan "for a short period" while the Labour Court hearing takes place.

Not binding
The Labour Court will discuss the company's revised proposals as union chiefs warned there were still major issues to be overcome in the talks. But the Labour Court decision will not be binding and any outcome at the talks will then have to be balloted by the union members. The company is still looking to make savings of around €9m in payroll costs.
The original plan included cuts in overtime from time-and-a-half to time-and-a-quarter; an increase in clerical and executive staff's working week from 36 to 39 hours; and cuts in shift, premium and rota payments. Also involved was cutting annual leave by three days over the next three years, and cutting allowances and expenses by a third.
Union sources said some of the proposals in the revised plan had been clarified, and some items had been taken out, but there still remained serious concern about cuts in shift allowances which would mean a €30 cut per shift, and cuts to expenses which would see drivers having to provide their own transport to get to rural locations.

11 Jan 2013

Ireland: talks try to halt 'indefinite' strike

Talks to avert a potential Bus Éireann strike are still continuing tonight at the Labour Relations Commission. Unions have warned of industrial action, which could severely disrupt services, if management proceed with plans to implement cuts under a new recovery programme from Sunday.

It could kick off on Sunday
Arriving at the talks this morning, representatives of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) warned its 900 drivers would refuse to operate Bus Éireann services as of Sunday if the company went ahead with plans to implement cuts in staff terms and conditions without union agreement.
NBRU general secretary Michael Faherty said the only way industrial action could be averted would be for the company to withdraw the changes proposed for Sunday and to allow negotiations to take place.
It is understood the unions are tonight considering a new document drawn up by management. Bus Éireann had told staff last month it would unilaterally introduce its new recovery programme as of Sunday.
Among the measures which Bus Éireann proposed to implement were a reduction of overtime rates from 1.5 times to 1.25 times; an increase in the duration of the working week for clerical and executive staff from 36 hours to 39 hours; cuts in shift, premium and rota payments; the curtailing of annual leave entitlement by three days for three years (2013-2015); and a scaling back of a range of allowance and expense payments by 33.3 per cent.

Three unions balloting for action
Three unions have balloted for industrial action: Siptu, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) and the NBRU. The threatened strike action is for an indefinite period and could severely curtail bus services.
Workers have rejected proposals to cut overtime and to increase the working week for clerical and executive staff. There will also be cuts in annual leave entitlement and expenses. Bus Éireann says the measures are necessary to stave off projected losses of €16 million this year.

Guernsey: strike threat wins concessions

Guernsey bus drivers will meet on Sunday night to decide whether CT Plus's decision to reinstate long weekends is enough to avert strike action. They were unhappy with the change to their work rosters which would have meant halving the four-day weekends they currently get every six weeks. Some of the drivers use the long weekends to travel home to their families.*
Although CT Plus has now decided to reinstate them, it has not back-tracked on plans to cut the amount of 'sign-on/off' time they get from ten to five minutes. During that time, the drivers do safety checks on their vehicles and fill up with fuel.
Unite represents the drivers. Its regional officer Bob Lanning said cutting the time meant drivers stood to lose around £400 a year.

* A number of drivers have been brought in from the UK and Europe. They use the long weekends to visit their families, who due to housing laws are unable to move over with them!

Isle of Man: drivers to strike on 17 January

Isle of Man bus drivers have voted for further strike action in a long-running dispute over measures which include a £3,000 pay cut. They will walk out on 17 January after talks between the Unite union and the government broke down on Thursday.
Unite's Bobby Morton said industrial action is planned for January, February and March.
In December a three-day strike led to hundreds of children on the island taking the steam train to school. The second strike will be held between 1pm and 6pm on Thursday which is an exam day for many of the island's GCSE and A-Level students.
Bobby Morton added that further strikes planned for February and March may be held over longer periods. The department is hoping the proposed changes will save £300,000 a year.

9 Jan 2013

Isle of Man: drivers plan more strikes

Bus drivers on the Isle of Man are meeting union leaders to discuss strikes for the next three months in a bitter dispute with government-owned Bus Vannin. The row began after the Manx government’s Department of Community Culture and Leisure (DCCL) instructed Vannin to cut the budget by £300,000. Drivers’ contracts were then terminated and new contracts imposed, slashing drivers’ wages by up to £3,000-a-year.  
Unite is urging Vannin and the DCCL to sit down face-to-face with an independent third party chair for binding arbitration to resolve the dispute. Unite members took part in a three-day strike last month ( 20-22 December) after talks broke down.

Ireland: 91% vote for a strike against cuts

The threat of a strike at Bus Eireann has deepened after 1,000 staff backed industrial action by an overwhelming majority today. The operator serves the whole of the Republic, with the exception of Dublin.
SIPTU members have voted by 91% to take strike action if the company imposes cuts in premium pay, annual leave, overtime, and other work practices from Sunday. The union said the strike action will affect Bus Eireann services countrywide from Thursday 17 January, and could spread to other companies in the CIE group.
However, the other main union at the operator - the National Bus and Rail Union - has warned its members may down tools this Sunday. This would mean they would defy the legal requirement that they give seven days notice of industrial action.
Bus Eireann revealed its financial crisis last June with proposals for a massive cost-cutting plan including cuts to overtime and shift rates, premium and expense payments and annual leave, and increasing the working week.
The cost-cutting plan includes reducing overtime rates from 1.5-1.25 times; the working week for clerical and executive staff moving from 36 to 39 hours; reducing annual leave by three days this year and in 2014 and 2015; and a one-third cut in other allowances and expenses. The company has around 2,500 staff, with about two-thirds employed as drivers.