‘Bus drivers deserve respect and higher salaries’ – UHM

Union Haddiema Maghqudin hold meeting with bus drivers during two-hour strike, repeat call for a vote amongst bus drivers to determine whether they want to be represented by UHM or GWU.

Bus drivers must be motivated before they can be expected to show respect to passengers, Union Haddiema Maghqudin general secretary Josef Vella said.

“I often hear about how bus drivers don’t show their passengers enough respect, but how can they be expected to do so when they themselves aren’t respected?” Vella asked a cheering room of bus drivers ahead of a meeting held during a union-imposed bus strike. “Bus drivers have been earning salaries that are just above the minimum wage for ages and have long been complaining about their conditions. If you expect to take something from workers, you must first give them what they deserve.”

UHM issued a strike for bus drivers between 6 and 8pm today to press its claim for recognition of bus drivers.

Malta Public Transport employees are currently recognized by the General Workers’ Union. However, the UHM are arguing that bus drivers have the right to be represented by the union of their choice, irrespective of which union represents the other MPT employees. The Industrial Tribunal agreed that bus drivers should be recognized separately, and the UHM are now calling for a verification vote amongst bus drivers to ascertain whether they want to be represented by the UHM or the GWU.

At the GWU’s request, the Civil Court issued a warrant of prohibitory injunction to prevent such a verification vote from taking place.

This, according to the UHM’s lawyer Ian Spiteri Bailey, was a clear sign that the GWU are scared of the outcome of such an “industrially democratic vote”.

MPT had earlier warned the UHM that today’s strike was illegal in terms of this warrant, but the union rebutted that it had a right to order such industrial action.

MPT and the GWU have been negotiating a new collective agreement for several months, negotiations that have been complicated by the UHM’s insistence that over 400 of the 670 bus drivers are registered with the UHM.

In February, the Civil Court, at the UHM’s request, issued a separate warrant of prohibitory injunction that preventing MPT and the GWU from negotiating a collective agreement. However, the Court revoked this warrant earlier last week.

This week, bus drivers reportedly received messages through their buses GPS’ systems that MPT and the GWU have reached a decision on a new collective agreement.

“Why is Malta Public Transport using its own apparatus to send drivers a message by the GWU?” Vella questioned, to a roar of approval amongst bus drivers.

“How can a union agree on a collective agreement without first consulting the workers? Have any of you voted on the conditions of this new collective agreement?” Vella asked, to which the bus drivers present simultaneously shouted “No”.

“We will bow our heads to whatever the results of the verification vote may be, but we will not allow anyone to try and shut the workers up,” he said. “Workers should no longer have to fight for their rights while living in a democratic country in 2015.”

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