(LONDON) – At a symposium held Tuesday night, the former chair of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, academics, community and faith leaders discussed the benefits of introducing independent monitoring programs at multinationals, including National Express Group PLC (NEX: LON).
The symposium, sponsored by Professors Ian Green of the University of Greenwich and Jane Holgate of the University of Lees, along with Unite the Union, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the Teamsters Union, comes before the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of shareholders for National Express. National Express is a multinational transportation company with operations in the U.S. under its school bus subsidiary, Durham School Services.
Shareholders are preparing for a vote on Resolution 22, a proposal that will be presented at the AGM in London today. The resolution calls for the National Express Board of Directors to adopt an independent monitoring program to review labor concerns at Durham.
The resolution was submitted by the Teamsters General Fund, members of the Local Authorities Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) and 100 individual National Express shareholders—owners of approximately two percent of the company’s stock. It is the first resolution to be recommended by ISS, the top proxy voting advisor, in at least 10 years that specifically addresses labor issues at a publicly-traded company in the United Kingdom.
At the symposium, Stanford University Professor William Gould, the former highest ranking U.S. labor law official under President Bill Clinton, discussed his role as independent monitor of United Kingdom-based transportation company FirstGroup from 2008 to 2011. FirstGroup is the chief competitor to National Express in the U.S. school bus transport market.
Gould detailed the independent monitoring program at FirstGroup, explaining the transparency and expeditiousness of the process which resulted in a public recommendation to the company on issues of freedom of association. Another key component was communication about the program.
“What we did at FirstGroup was let employees know what their rights were and set up a procedure and system so they could avail themselves of these rights,” Gould said.
Dot Scott, president of the Charleston, S.C., chapter of the NAACP, spoke at the forum about her experiences with Durham. Scott has fought for years alongside Durham school bus workers and Teamster members to work to improve conditions at Durham.
“What I’d like to see is the company value and respect its employees. There needs to be an independent party to address the issues at this company, and that is what Resolution 22 will accomplish,” Scott said.
“There are signs here everywhere in the subway to, ‘Mind the Gap.’ Minding the gap means minding how we all need to be treated fairly, and that these children of ours—these precious cargo—need to be treated with full dignity and respect, as do the workers,” said Reverend C.J. Hawking, Executive Director of Arise Chicago.
As the head of Arise Chicago, a membership-based community organization, Rev. Hawking has helped lead the fight against wage theft of workers in Illinois.
Samuel Morris, a U.S. labor attorney discussed issues with Durham in places like Santa Rosa County, Fla., where Durham drivers and monitors voted overwhelmingly in February 2013 in favor of representation by Teamsters Local 991. Two years later, the company continues in its refusal to recognize the union. The National Labor Relations Board has certified the workers’ election as valid.
On May 1, 32 members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter urging the National Express Board of Directors to institute an independent review of Durham.
More than 30 Members of Parliament recently put forth an Early Day Motion, condemning the anti-trade union activities of National Express.
Two Parliamentarians, Ian Lavery and Jim Sheridan, recently issued a report revealing serious concerns at National Express’s U.S. subsidiary, calling for intervention by the company’s Board of Directors to resolve these issues. Lavery and Sheridan traveled to the United States in February after hearing reports from Durham school bus workers, parents and community leaders about poor working conditions and anti-union bias at Durham operations in the U.S. The report details poor worker treatment and working conditions, including unpaid wages for time on the job, at the company’s U.S. school bus yards.
For more information on the resolution and National Express’s record in the U.S., go to www.busfair.org.
The Teamsters’ Drive Up Standards campaign is a global campaign to improve safety, service and work standards in the private school bus and transit industry. Since the campaign began in 2006, more than 38,600 North American school bus and transit workers have become Teamsters.
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.