Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/414/4705
London bus driver
Sacked for defending union rights
Reinstate Andy Beadle now
ANDY BEADLE, the TGWU shop steward for the Peckham bus garage in south London and a long-standing member of the Socialist Party was "summarily dismissed" on 28 October. His employers are London Central, part of Go Ahead.
Bill Mullins, Socialist Party national Industrial organiser
The reason given was that he had produced an "unauthorised notice" calling on his members to vote against the pay deal being proposed by the local union official.
His members had already voted against the deal once, this was a second ballot over the same issue. The fact that Andy had continued to oppose the deal obviously annoyed the bosses and the local union official.
To add to the suspicion that this official was more prepared to push the bosses' agenda, he then refused to represent Andy at the hearing where he was sacked. Andy wrote to the regional secretary who then sent another official to represent him.
Who can doubt that by this time the management was feeling confident enough to sack Andy with impunity?
But over the weekend, once they got over the shock of hearing what happened, Peckham bus drivers began to organise themselves and formed a committee to campaign for Andy's reinstatement. This is open to all TGWU branch 1/1401 members, the Peckham garage branch.
Peckham bus workers, aided by local Socialist Party members, spent the weekend leafleting bus workers in Peckham and widely publicising what has happened. The overwhelming reaction has been anger and a determination to get Andy his job back.
What the employers have been relying on is the lack of confidence amongst bus drivers, especially as they witnessed the role of the local official as he tried to browbeat them into accepting the pay deal.
But as a result of the campaign, the mood is now changing to one of anger and a determination to do everything to win Andy's re-instatement.
Peckham bus workers know that this is not just an attack on one individual but an attack on all of them. The message of the London Central bosses is: "this is what happens to anybody who speaks up" They hope to further intimidate and scare the bus drivers into accepting all that is thrown at them.
The break-up of London bus workers into separate companies has led to huge differences in the earnings of drivers from one part of London to another and nationally come to that. The pay deal negotiated by the right-wing officials would still have left a £50 per week difference with some other London bus workers.
It is these conditions that are building the intensity of feelings amongst bus workers. The bosses of London Central obviously thought they had to act now. By sacking Andy they hoped to nip in the bud the possibility of drivers' action over their wages and conditions.
It is now possible that this sacking will be the last straw for many bus workers, not just in Peckham but wider afield.
Peckham bus drivers have called a lobby of the meeting of reps from the London Central and London General bus companies (CBC) this Thursday, 3 November at 10am in the TGWU office, 3 Woolwich New Road, near Woolwich Arsenal station. It wants as many bus workers and supporters as possible to come down to the lobby and demand that the reps get behind Andy and fight for his re-instatement and ensure that the union does all in its power to see this happens.
Protest to Peckham garage: 020 7639 1326. London Central buses: 020 8646 1747, fax : 020 8640 2317. firstname.lastname@example.org. Messages of support to: email@example.com
Life on the buses
Sacked - for my union activity
I AM a Peckham bus driver and the TGWU union rep for the garage. At least I was until last Friday. When I came out of the meeting with the garage general manager, no one would believe I'd been sacked - "You're joking!" I had to show them the piece of paper, "Decision of disciplinary hearing ... It was decided to summarily dismiss from the employ of London Central Bus Company Ltd. (ie without notice)".
Everyone is beginning to see what this outrageous decision is about. My "gross misconduct" was to properly represent my members as their elected shop steward. It's always been hard to win very much as rep but I've always tried my best.
My crime was to believe in union democracy. I'm always talking to my members to understand their concerns. I hold meetings - too many meetings, according to my convenor - to hear the wishes of bus workers so I can try and help them.
If I can be sacked for "an unauthorised notice likely to bring the Company into disrepute", it's lucky they don't hear what drivers say to me about the job and the company every single day. They'd have to sack us all!
And what's this about an "unauthorised notice"? The notice was fully authorised by the union branch and branch committee. Our TGWU 1/1401 branch is an independent union. We don't need management's approval for our notices. The bosses have stopped us sticking our notices on the union notice board in the garage canteen. Now they want to stop us giving out leaflets to our own members. Why are they so scared of free speech and democracy?
I tried to warn drivers I might be sacked but I was laughed at. They keep a big thick folder on every driver but I've got a clean record. Eleven years as a driver here, four as union rep. Never late for work. Not been sick much.
And when it comes to obeying their rules everyone thinks I'm obsessive ... anal in fact! The engineers say I don't do a pre-service check on the bus, I do an MoT. I'm even nice to passengers. There's only one reason I've been sacked and that is clear - my union activity.
If they can sack the union rep for trying to do what his members want, what chance does anyone else have? That's why I'm confident I've not only got the backing of my members but the union leaders will be forced to support me. If the bosses get away with this, it will badly damage the union.
The mood among Peckham drivers is they are stunned. They know this must stop. But how? That is why we're demanding the backing of the whole union. I'm putting in an appeal. But given the rough justice I've got so far from this firm, we must be ready to take it further.
The TGWU could use this opportunity to turn defence into attack. Bus workers are part of a community of low-paid workers of all races in the capital. A victory here would make many think maybe they should sign up for the protection of a union.
North Staffs/South Cheshire buses
Striking for £8 an hour
FIRST BUS drivers carried out their fifth one-day strike on 29 October in North Staffordshire and South Cheshire. They're demanding £8 an hour to give them parity with drivers in other areas. Increasing their pay to £8 an hour for all 400 drivers involved would cost less than £5,000 a day.
Andy Bentley, Stoke on Trent
First Bus, however, say they "can't afford" to pay this increase. But they make around £50,000 profit every day and, like all privatised bus companies, get a share of the £1.5 billion of our public money paid to them every year in subsidies!
There's a simple way that First Bus can clear up this matter. They should be made to open up their books to inspection by bus drivers, their trade union representatives and local people so we can see where all the profits are going.
Privatisation has been a disaster for bus companies' employees and the paying public. A handful of former bus managers, shareholders and accountants have grown wealthy whilst workers suffered earnings loss, longer and more intensive hours of work and pensions deterioration.
Bus drivers once enjoyed wages 7% above the average male earnings, now they are 13% below it. Meanwhile the travelling public suffer ever-deteriorating services and rising bus fares.
Bus companies should be taken back into public ownership and run and managed by those who best know and understand the industry - bus industry employees themselves supported by representatives of local communities. This would allow bus workers' and passengers' interests to be taken into account.
Thousands back bus workers
STRIKING DRIVERS left the picket line to join the Day of Action organised by Stoke Socialist Party in Hanley on 29 October. We launched a petition in support of the First Bus driver's demands and attracted hundreds to sign it.
We also gave out leaflets calling for £8 an hour without any strings, for First Bus to open their books for inspection and demanding that the privatised bus companies are taken back into public ownership.
At times our campaign stalls were besieged by people wanting to show their support. Almost 2,000 people have already signed our petition and on the day 110 copies of the socialist were bought.
North Staffordshire workers are notoriously low-paid. First Bus drivers are leading the struggle for a decent minimum wage. Victory for the drivers would be a victory for all workers in the area.
We are calling for:
- £8 an hour without any strings for First Bus drivers
- First Bus to open their books so drivers can see where the massive profits are going.
- Take the privatised bus companies back into public ownership.
Sheffield wants its buses back!
ONLY TWO days after South Yorkshire 'First' bus company announced another bus fares hike, the We Want Our Buses Back! (WWOBB) campaign protested to local government minister, David Miliband.
'First' are raising fares by 15-20% on 19 November. This is the fourth fares rise this year! Prices have gone up by 36% in the last 18 months. As this news spread on Saturday (front page story in the local paper), the WWOBB campaign stall became swamped with irate bus-users, already angry at previous fare rises and cuts in bus services.
'Sheffield First' (a council/private quango with the same misleading name as the bus company!) launched their City Strategy on Monday with Miliband and council leaders in attendance. WWOBB campaigners lobbied the city dignitaries saying "First buses makes Sheffield Last for public transport!"
Whereas Sheffield once boasted a cheap fares policy and had an envied bus service, since Thatcher's de-regulation and privatisation in 1987, our buses have become the most expensive and passenger journeys have fallen by two-thirds!
Labour council leaders keep 'threatening' First, but have done nothing apart from agreeing a few voluntary and ineffectual "Quality Partnerships". Meanwhile, 'First' who nationally made £107 million profit last year, and in South Yorkshire had a 15% profit rate, keep putting fares up.
Such is the anger at this latest fares rise that WWOBB are considering organising a city-centre demonstration on Saturday 19 November. Pressure is growing for First bosses to have their licence withdrawn, on the council to re-regulate Sheffield bus services, and to force the government to re-nationalise public transport. We want our buses back!
In The Socialist 3 November 2005: