Attributed by: Times Newspapers Limited 2015
Published: May 5, 2015
National Express has come under renewed pressure from one of America’s most powerful unions to reform working practices at a subsidiary that carries more than a million children a day to and from school.
The Teamsters union, which represents more than 1.4 million blue-collar workers in North America, has tabled a proposal for a vote at the transport group’s annual meeting tomorrow calling for an independent review into the way in which Durham School Services treats its staff.
Teamsters, which traces its roots back to 1903 and which traditionally has spoken for truckers and other drivers, has been joined in the demand by members of the Local Authorities Pension Fund Forum in Britain and a further 100 individual owners of National Express shares.
The group has a shareholding in the London-listed company of about 2 per cent. Its proposal has received the backing of Institutional Shareholder Services, the United States-based proxy voting adviser closely watched by pension funds. Teamsters said yesterday that it was the first time in at least a decade that the ISS had backed a staff-specific proposal relating to a company listed in Britain. The union’s pension fund, which is the owner of the shares, also said that more than 30 MPs had signed up to an early-day motion “condemning the anti-trade union activities of National Express”.
Ian Lavery and Jim Sheridan, two Labour parliamentary candidates, have also published a report into National Express’s alleged anti-union bias at Durham and have called on the board of the transport group to intervene.
Teamsters did not go into detail about its criticisms of Durham’s behaviour as it called for the review, which is also backed by 32 members of the US Congress. However, it marks the sixth year in a row that it has tried to instigate a review of Durham by National Express, which bought the American bus company in 1998.
This time last year, Teamsters claimed that Durham had been guilty of divide-and-rule tactics aimed at keeping the union out of the workplace, including disciplining and getting rid of employees engaged in union-organising. It also accused Durham of undertaking illegal surveillance of workers involved in union activities, as well as threatening to cut the benefits, working conditions and even the jobs of those who supported unionising the company.
National Express defended its track record, stating that its recognition of unions in America was widespread and that membership, at 34 per cent, had been increasing steadily in recent years. It also pointed to surveys among staff showing that employee satisfaction is high.
A spokesman said: “National Express remains firmly of the view that we have strong policies and processes in place, including those that protect workers’ rights.”
Shareholders speaking for just under 13 per cent of National Express voted in favour of the same resolution at the transport group’s annual meeting last year. National Express shares closed on Friday down 43Ž4p at 2823Ž4p.