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."