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On the buses – fightback at Sovereign

A FIGHTBACK is brewing at the London Sovereign bus company, writes Joy Macready.

The workers have rejected a 5.2 per cent pay offer by a massive vote: 185 to 23. The workers are attempting to roll back an attack on their pay and conditions since UNITE convenor Abdul Omer Mohsin’s dismissal in March 2010.

“The drivers on Sovereign recognise the importance of this fight to win back their respect,” says Abdul. “Please UNITE behind them on their call to UNITE  to ballot them for strike action now. The mood for a fight is building fast, while there is a concerted effort being played to dampen this mood and bury their fury .We need organised leadership to help build this fight.”

Abdul is a militant who led the London pay campaign from 2007. The campaign was an excellent initiative, with several rounds of strike action, including an occupation of Transport for London’s offices in 2009 to demand centralised pay bargaining and one rate of pay for the job. But UNITE played a dreadful role in the dispute by suspending the strikes when management made a pay offer to drivers individually – this sign of weakness gave Sovereign the opportunity to sack Abdul and get rid of the thorn in its side.

Instead of supporting their sacked militant, UNITE hung Abdul out to dry. They suspended him and claimed that his membership subscription was in arrears – by just ₤£20. The union has failed to organise a ballot for action over his reinstatement, despite the fact that the Sovereign drivers have refused to elect a new convenor until Abdul’s case is resolved.

Abdul tried to get the union to back him and support his reinstatement, which meant a head-on fight with Unite bureaucrats who wanted shot of him.  This caused a crisis as  he could not get work, could not pay his mortgage and was admitted to hospital with stress.  After serious pressure was brought to bear on the union they have agreed to get behind Abdul. The campaign for reinstatment has drawn in activists to distribute hundreds of leaflets across London bus depots. It is important that UNITE branches and other trade unionists send messages of support and donations.

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