From the TUC

UK bus drivers rally for respect: transatlantic solidarity

27 Mar 2013, By

School bus workers united protest

Unite and Teamsters members take their message to the UK offices of National Express.

UK trade unionists are showing practical solidarity with their colleagues in Canada and the USA. It’s another example of multinational double standards, and the trade union response.

In the UK, National Express recognises Unite the Union and 94% of the workforce are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. But in the company’s North American subsidiaries, it’s a different story. The second-largest provider of school bus services in North America (known as ‘Durham’ in the US and ‘Stock Transportation’ in Canada) is resisting union recognition and only 32% of the workforce is covered by a union contract.

So the Teamsters in North America have turned to driver members of Unite in the UK, and today trade unionists from both sides of the Atlantic have staged a ‘Rally for Respect’ outside the company headquarters in Digbeth, Birmingham demanding the multinational transport company honour the human rights of its North American workers. They delivered a letter from Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa, calling on the company to show more respect for the rights of its workforce. Union drivers took along signs and banners saying “NEX Workers Deserve Respect” and “School Bus Workers United.”

Bobby Morton, Unite National Officer for Passenger Transport, told us that:

“Unite the Union members are standing foursquare alongside our traditional allies the Teamsters union from America at a demonstration at the headquarters of National Express in Birmingham. We have joined forces once again to oppose the company’s anti-worker/anti-union policies in its North American operations and we are calling on National Express to respect its workers’ human rights. The company has no problems working with trade unions in the UK, so why not in America. An injury to one is an injury to all.”

As companies become more and more multinational, unions need to work more and more closely together to use the influence they have with global HQs and to ensure the highest standards can be shared across borders. With a possible EU-USA trade deal on the cards this year, European and American unions are alert to the need to make sure companies show the same respect to workers when they are ‘playing away’ as they do at home.