(WASHINGTON) –Today, National Express [LSE: NEX.L] investors are urging the company’s board to back a resolution seeking an independent review of employment practices in its U.S. school bus wholly-owned subsidiary, Durham School Services. Announcement of the resolution comes on the same day National Express is shortlisted at this year’s Business Finance Awards.
The investors – including public sector union UNISON’s staff pension scheme, the SEIU Master Trust, the Teamsters Union and individual shareholders – have filed a shareholder resolution to address longstanding issues concerning Durham School Services’ treatment of employees. Since 2001, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board has found merit in more than 65 complaints against the company.
The resolution, drafted by the pension funds, calls on National Express to undertake an independent review of the allegations made about its U.S. bus business. For several years, school bus employees have raised concerns to the board and shareholders that local managers are making it hard for employees to join a union.
This year’s resolution to the National Express AGM requests that the company obtain an independent assessment of these longstanding investor concerns through the appointment of a suitable person to review the situation. This person would report their findings to the company, unions and shareowners by the end of Q3 2016.
In 2015, the resolution received support from approximately 25 percent of National Express’ non-insider shareholders. This represents the largest ever vote for a labour rights themed resolution at a U.K.-based company.
“The labor problems facing National Express’ North American school bus operations are long-running and systemic, but are not addressed with the seriousness these issues demand,” said Ken Hall, International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer. “While the company is lauded for its reporting, it’s what is not reported that we believe holds unnecessary risks for investors. Unfortunately, for several years now, investors and workers’ concerns have fallen on the deaf ears of senior management and the board of directors.”
As long-term shareowners the pension funds believe their proposal will minimise the risk of both reputational damage and the impact on shareholder value resulting from the continuing disputes.
“We are backing the resolution because the company continues to rebuff efforts to discuss the way that workers employed on its U.S. school bus contracts are treated. When companies do not take workforce issues seriously, this can be a sign that they are also not taking into consideration the medium-term impact poor industrial relations is having on performance,” said Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON. “Apart from wanting the best return for our current and future pensioners, UNISON is pleased to be part of a trans-Atlantic union coalition that is trying to win a better deal for employees in the U.S.”
Since the 2015 National Express AGM, the company has seen a number of decisions against it.
In October 2015, a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative law judge ruled that Durham had violated labour law in various ways, including National Express North American CEO David Duke unreasonably interrogating a driver about her attendance at a previous AGM.
In February 2016, following the decision of a group of administrative staff in California to seek workplace representation in 2015, the NLRB ordered Durham to begin bargaining with the Teamsters after it refused to talk to the union.
Last month, the employer also dropped one of its key objections to the NLRB, which it had used to delay accepting the result of a vote for union representation by Durham drivers in Florida in 2013.
National Express shareholders will cast their votes at the company’s Annual General Meeting on 11 May 2016.
UNISON is one of the U.K.’s largest trade unions, serving more than 1.3 million members who provide public services in both the public and private sectors.
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.