Sunday, 4 April 2010

Support Abdul Omer, busworker trade unionist

An important message via a busworker friend about a busworker who seems to have been sacked for being an effective trade unionist. The busdrivers working from Harrow and Edgware bus garages were among the lowest paid in London until Abdul became active on their behalf. Now he has lost his job because of it.

Bosses at Sovereign Bus Company have sacked Abdul Omer, the Unite convenor for their two garages in Harrow and Edgware. It is a clear attempt to break union organisation. Everybody knows that drivers at Sovereign had the worst pay and conditions in London. That has changed, and the bosses hate it. Management have accused Omer of intimidating a witness during a disciplinary hearing.

None of the witnesses have made a complaint. His real crime is robustly defending a worker against a charge. Action in defence of Omer can get results. Sovereign is a bully. Like all bullies they will back down when faced with a strong response rather than running away from them.

The Unite branch at Harrow passed a motion calling on the union to hold a ballot for action to reinstate Omer. It was also signed by all the reps at both Sovereign garages. Omer’s record strengthened union organisation at Sovereign’s two garages, backed up by strikes and has resulted in serious gains for drivers.

These include: Pay will be brought into line with Sovereign’s sister company, London United. This will increase Sovereign drivers pay by around £4,000 a year within an agreed timetable. New drivers at Sovereign were paid 14 percent less than at London United. Half this gap has been closed this year. The other half will be closed in July this year. New drivers had to wait two years before being entitled to sick pay. They will now be entitled to receive it after 12 months — the same as the drivers at London United.

Don't let Sovereign break the union! Sovereign workers will receive a 2 percent pay increase as part of a deal to align the hours they work with London United. This is over and above normal pay bargaining. London United workers are entitled to an annual performance related bonus, paid at Christmas and usually worth around £400. Sovereign has now agreed to negotiate on introducing this at its garages. Sovereign in the past has offered no bonus for length of service.

Drivers will now receive a £10 a week bonus after five years employment. This July that will drop to four years, and in 2011 it will be paid after three years employment. And they won a 3.5 percent pay rise this year! Omer, as convenor, has been central to all this. And Sovereign bosses know Omer has support. That’s why they have rushed to have extra managers working over the Easter weekend to stop and halt any walkouts. Our reps must be free to effectively defend members at disciplinary hearings without facing management threats to suspend or sack them.

If Sovereign can get away with sacking the union convenor it will encourage other companies to attempt to weaken union organisation elsewhere. Every garage should call on the union to act on the Harrow Unite branch demand for an official ballot.

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Anonymous said...

I am also a bus driver at London Sovereign and believe that unfortunately your article could not be further from the truth. London Sovereign is a decent company to work for.

Citizen Barnet said...

Abdul's sacking was confirmed at his recent appeal. If Sovereign are an OK firm (it's not what I've heard) that's down to trade unionists like Abdul.