Monday, July 17, 2006

FirstGroup to root out [U.S.] anti-union practices

FirstGroup, the bus and rail giant, yesterday pledged to stamp out management anti-union activities in its North American operation, amid claims that its staff there are toiling under poor working conditions.
Moir Lockhead, FirstGroup's chief executive, yesterday also confirmed the company was targeting the acquisition of a majority stake in Dutch public transport group Connexxion for its first foray into continental Europe.
"It is a big business with revenues of about e900m and it is just what we want."
The promise regarding its North American activities came at the group's annual meeting in Aberdeen, which lasted twice as long as usual because of employees and union leaders from the UK and US protesting the non-implementation of a company-wide human rights policy....The giant US Teamsters Union and the Service Employees International Union, two of the 11 unions the company has agreements with in North America, want the card system adopted which allows them to canvass individuals to sign up...."This company made its position on unions perfectly clear to me," she said.
"The day I applied for my job there was a document attached to my application which said the company would aggressively resist unionisation. This is the only time in my experience the company has kept its word."
She also maintained the buses were poorly maintained, drivers were overworked and the insurance benefits had been independently assessed as "not worth the paper they were written on".
She said in the run-up to a secret ballot for union recognition, which was achieved, every possible means of intimidation was used.
The AGM heard that John Lyons, the former Labour MP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, has just returned from the US, having been hired by First Group to investigate the claims.
He said: "The trade unions are right when they say there is all sorts of material which is anti-union. That was the case in Baltimore and Iowa."

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