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.