15 Jun 2015

Bradford bus drivers settle dispute with First

An eight-day strike by bus drivers in Bradford has been called off after they reached an agreement with their employer.
In April, 380 bus drivers walked out for 48 hours in a dispute with First in Bradford over job losses. Unite had warned of a further eight day strike if crunch talks with the company failed this week.
But yesterday, members based at the Bowling Back Lane depot voted 215 to 38 to accept a new agreement, which was drawn-up after two days of talks earlier this week. Mohammed Taj, the branch secretary for Unite in Bradford, said: "We've worked together to reach an agreement that has been strongly accepted by our members.
It was agreed after the talks that depot members would be given full consultation over any future potential job losses at the Bradford site.
Union members were also given reassurances by First over its commitment to the city after the company announced it would invest £2 million to bring 12 low emissions buses to Bradford from next month. The promise followed union criticism about the level of investment in the company's fleet.

27 Apr 2015

Strike causing 'massive disruption' in Bradford

380 bus drivers are on strike in Bradford today. The 48-hour walkout started at 1.30am after crunch talks broke down on Saturday.
Unite union members says the primary reason for the action is the transfer of part of the 576 bus service from Bradford to Halifax which it says has cost eight jobs. But First deny this allegation.
Mohammed Taj, Unite branch secretary, said more than 200 people had joined the picket lane at the First Bradford depot in Bowling Back Lane today, including Bradford West parliamentary candidate George Galloway.
"It is going well," said Mr Taj. "As far as we are concerned we are absolutely rock solid… There is a lot of support, lots of people are backing us. People are pipping their horns."
A spokesman for First said the company was running skeleton service of 15 buses in Bradford, covering main routes. He said the strike was causing "massive disruption", and added: "We would like to bring the dispute to a close as quickly as possible."

22 Apr 2015

First Bradford: drivers vote to strike over depot row

Drivers at First Bradford are due to walk out for 48-hours next week in a row over service cuts.
The dispute centres on the transfer to the Halifax depot of part of the 576 bus service from Bradford to Halifax, with the claimed loss of eight jobs. The 380 bus drivers at the First Bradford depot, members of Unite, plan to strike all day on Monday and Tuesday. The drivers voted by 89 per cent for strike action and by 93 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.

Running down
Unite had accused the company of running the bus depot down with the intention of closing it in the future. The union also claimed there was “bullying and harassment on a daily basis”.
Unite regional officer Harriet Eisner said: “This blinkered management has let services wither on the vine over the last four years – for example, the number of drivers employed has shrunk from 470 to 380 in that time... There is a big shortage of drivers with no recruitment of new drivers and this is coupled with the movement of jobs without consultation from Bradford to other towns.”


Talks at ACAS between the union and the operator are due to begin tomorrow.

14 Apr 2015

Oxford: Unite calls off strike for vote on new pay offer

Yesterday drivers at Oxford Bus Company had planned to strike over pay, but it was called off after a revised offer. Workers were demanding a four per cent pay rise but the operator was only offering three per cent.

8 Apr 2015

RIP Abdul Omer Mohsin, 1952-2015

By Roger and Sarah Cox  
Abdul arrived in Britain on a stretcher, a starved four stone wreck after the defeat of the Sudanese Communist Party in the 1970s. He had been a student organiser for the party and was part of a student uprising that was crushed. He was tortured by the police. 

Abdul was a man of considerable audacity, skill and experience. He became a bus driver in Harrow and it was not long before he won the position of Unite union rep. Very quickly he organised the branch, involving the other drivers. He understood the importance of fighting and winning on seemingly minor issues like facilities for prayers and meal breaks, as well as major issues like wage equality. Abdul stood out among bus reps as a fighter, always wanting to have a go, even if sometimes it might not be the best thing to do. 

He joined the Socialist Workers Party he said, because the comrade standing outside his garage week after week selling Socialist Worker and giving out leaflets reminded him of himself in his youth. When Nazis tried to protest in Harrow he mobilised bus workers to join the anti-fascist demonstration in their uniforms. It was a great example of how to organise joint action. Before long he faced opposition from management and he was victimised. 

The process of industrial tribunal hearings and securing support from Unite exhausted him and took their toll. Abdul suffered a heart attack followed by the loss of kidney function and suffered increasing ill health until last week when he passed away. 

He studied engineering and during his illness returned to another passion. He designed and tried to create an interest in his schemes for harnessing tidal power. This is what was so important about Abdul—to the end he was always a fighter, not just for better conditions in the daily grind of our working lives, but also to build a better world for us all.

London’s bus companies agree to talks

Bus drivers in London could be striking again soon if talks fail between Transport for London (TfL), bus operators and Unite. The talks are set for Thursday of this week.  
Drivers at the capital’s 18 bus operators struck twice earlier this year demanding an end to unequal pay and sector wide negotiations. After months of the employers refusing to talk action by the drivers and pressure from their union has at least forced the bosses and TfL to sit round the table. 
If nothing progresses from the talks more strikes will need to be called to rebuild the momentum lost since the last strike in February. 

27 Mar 2015

South Yorkshire: strike ballot over pay

Bus drivers at First in Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster are balloting for strikes over pay. The workers rejected bosses’ offer of a pay freeze this year

Abellio drivers vote to strike over broken promises

Unite union members at five Abellio bus depots in London are set to ballot for strikes after bosses reneged on the second year of two-year pay deal. Drivers at Battersea, Beddington, Hayes, Twickenham and Walworth depots voted by 528 to 12 for strikes in a recent consultative ballot. Meanwhile at Metroline bosses are attempting to force through new contracts and at Tower Transit workers are resisting attacks on the union.

29 Jan 2015

London-wide bus strikes escalate

Unite announced three more 24 hour London-wide bus strikes yesterday. The stoppages are on Thursday 5 February, Friday 13 February and Monday 16 February. They follow a continued refusal by London’s 18 bus operators to enter into collective talks over ending pay disparities. A 24 hour strike in January saw bus services across the capital brought to a standstill as over 20,000 bus workers walked out. 

One rate for the job
Unite regional officer Wayne King said: “Bus passengers pay one fare, so why don’t bus drivers get paid the same rate for doing the same job? We urge London’s bus operators to see sense and collectively engage in talks to give London’s bus workers a fair deal.” 
In contrast to tube drivers, there isn’t one collective pay deal for bus drivers in the capital, whose pay is negotiated on a company by company basis leading to pay inequality and disparities. 
There are over 80 different pay rates covering London’s bus drivers, doing the same job, even driving the same route but for different rates of pay. Drivers’ pay can differ by £3 per hour, from £9.30 to £12.34.

14 Jan 2015

London bus strike hits back at the bosses

Lines of buses remained parked in garages across London on Tuesday as over 20,000 drivers struck to demand better pay. Commuters faced delays, and tube and rail services were overcrowded. Transport for London (TfL) urged Londoners to “walk or cycle where possible” as bus services ground to a halt.

The walkout showed the collective power that workers have to win their pay dispute with the capital’s 18 bus operators and TfL. And it showed there’s an alternative to submitting to the Tories and the bosses—or waiting for Labour.
The workers, in the Unite union, are demanding an end to pay disparities where 80 different pay rates see over £3 an hour difference across the companies. Bus companies have refused to enter collective negotiations.

Mostafa, a Unite rep at Putney garage in south west London, told Socialist Worker, “We’re totally solid. Bosses will be afraid of the impact we are having.”
Picket lines were huge, noisy and multicultural. At Abellio’s Fulwell garage in Twickenham some 60 pickets chanted “United we stand, let’s strike together” in Polish, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Somali and English.
Drivers blocked scab buses and desperate bosses even called police. The lively pickets demonstrate the overwhelming support among drivers for the walkout. But they also prove the perfect antidote to the anti-migrant racism of the likes of Ukip.
Mostafa explained that many underlying reasons other than pay made the strike so well supported.
“Drivers face bullying managers, long hours and unfair treatment. It’s all about profits rather than providing a public service,” he said.

Right wingers attacked the turnout for the strike ballot, with the Tories using the opportunity to renew calls to curb the right to strike. They say London is being held to ransom by a militant minority. Yet even TfL and Tory mayor Boris Johnson could only try and claim that a third of bus services were running. In fact TfL claimed just 44 out of 673 bus routes ran a normal service.

The dispute has been years in the making. Companies have driven down pay to squeeze more profit from the public subsidy that TfL gives for running bus routes. This has created a two-tier workforce.
As pay stagnates, the cost of living continues to rise.
“It’s about time!” said Jay, a driver for Tower Transit in north west London. “Over 20,000 drivers in London are out for equality... There’s only one winner with inequality and that’s the bosses. This is the first time I’ve seen a collective strike across London.”
Westbourne Park driver Patrick told Socialist Worker, “I feel like I’ve got a big family —that’s a powerful feeling.”

Mike Weston, TfL’s director of buses, justified unequal pay by insisting that “bus drivers have different skills and experience”.
Mostafa said this was “nonsense”. He said, “We all do the same training for the same job—it’s the same skills that are required... The companies are just cutting back to save money.”
The bus operators’ latest accounts show combined profits of £172 million, with directors pocketing £7.24 million a year. That’s public money that could be invested in the bus service. It’s money that could bring down fares and raise pay so that drivers get the same rate across the city.

Bus drivers have the power to win this dispute, but Unite now needs to escalate the strikes. Tower Transit rep Hanafi told Socialist Worker that union organisation is crucial to beating the bosses.
He said, “If you don’t fight for it, you can’t win it.
“They are never going to hand it on a plate to us—that’s why we’ve all got to back each other up now.”
Some workers’ names have been changed. 


7 Jan 2015

London-wide bus strike called for 13 January

Unite has announced that up to 27,000 bus workers will be taking part in a London wide bus strike on Tuesday 13 January. The historic 24 hour stoppage is in response to the continued refusal by the capital’s 18 bus operators to enter into talks about a single London-wide agreement covering bus workers’ pay, terms and conditions.

In contrast to tube drivers, there isn’t one collective pay deal for bus drivers in the capital, whose pay is negotiated on a company by company basis leading to pay inequality and disparities. There are over 80 different pay rates covering London’s bus drivers, doing the same job, even driving the same route but for different rates of pay. A refusal by the bus operators to address the issue has led to pay gaps of over £3 an hour for new starters opening up, with pay varying from £9.30 to £12.34 an hour depending on the company.

Unite represents over 27,000 bus workers working for 18 bus companies who serve Greater London. These are: Arriva North, Arriva South, Selkent, London General, Metroline, Metroline West, Metrobus, CT Plus, London United, Abellio South, Abellio West, London Sovereign, Stagecoach, Blue Triangle, Northumberland Park, Tower Transit, Docklands and London Central.

Pickets will be from 3.30am, with a peak time from 5am-9am. They will be big and lively. Please visit  your local garage to show your support. A list of them can be found here:

3 Jan 2015

London: Tower Transit drivers strike for two days

Drivers at Tower Transit's Lea Interchange garage in East London struck for 24 hours on Monday 29 December in a dispute over pay and conditions.
The Unite members action hit 13 routes. A union spokesperson said: "Faced with an increasingly hostile management which is hell bent on driving down the pay, terms and conditions, our members have been left with little option but to take the unusual step of striking... Tower Transit need to get back around the negotiating table and start treating its workforce with respect."
The industrial action is the first strike over the dispute, with a second 24-hour walkout planned for Monday 5 January.

Tower Transit is a relative newcomer to London. It was formed when Transit Systems (a transport group based in Australia) bought up the Atlas Road, Lea Interchange and Westbourne Park garages from FirstLondon (a subsidiary of FirstGroup) in 2013.