An appeal for support from Abdul Omer Mohsin - trade union rep at Sovereign buses victimised for effectively organising to win improved conditions for busworkers
On March 31st, I was sacked for being an effective union rep at Sovereign buses.
Sovereign Buses is owned alongside London United by the Transdev group. I began working at London United in February 2003 before joining Sovereign Buses in July 2007. The wages at Sovereign were about £4000 less than that paid at London United.
When I joined Sovereign, I made my colleagues aware of the huge gap in wages and we began to campaign for parity.
As the drivers at both the Harrow and Edgware garages rejected the pay offer in 2008 voting for strike action, the rep at the Harrow garage resigned and I became elected as a rep in October 2008 in the Harrow garage. At this time we had only 39 members of UNITE out of 120 drivers. Once I became the rep membership increased throughout the garage and we are now 100% UNITE. All the drivers are in the union.
In August 2009, I was elected convenor for both Harrow and Edgware garages. We continued challenging the management over many issues, but now at both garages.
A couple of weeks after my election, in September, the management tried to unilaterally impose new rotas on one of our routes at Edgware. Drivers walked out unofficially and within 2 hours the Company collapsed agreeing to negotiate any proposed changes with UNITE.
The Company also agreed to reimburse all of the members involved in the unofficial action. Following this dispute the pay talks in October 2009 resulted in a timetable for significant salary increases, new agreements on pensions, bonuses and sick pay for drivers in both garages. Once the timetable is concluded, drivers at Sovereign will have parity with those at London United.
When the racist English Defence League tried to march on the Harrow mosque in September, UNITE called on all our members to support the Unite Against Fascism counter mobilisation. In the Harrow garage we advertised the UAF demo from the union office. We mobilised 18 drivers from Harrow and 1 from Edgware to support the counter protest. The demonstration was a huge success and was one of the proudest days of my life.
Management stoke up division in the garages to try and split the drivers. In September the Company removed our UAF poster from the union office. It took as until November until we got our poster back. I put it up in the union office, and there was an attempted assault on me by someone opposed to UAF which resulted in me being suspended along with the aggressor pending an investigation.
This entire incident was captured on CCTV in the garage; yet, I was suspended for 1 month and 9 days. Despite the incident being captured on CCTV with witnesses present, no action was taken against the perpetrator.
One week after my return in February, I represented a black engineer from Harrow who alleged he was suffering from racial harassment. The Company have agreed to organise a race awareness course in engineering, so clearly there is a problem.
In truth, the problem of racism exists across the garage. The engineer’s grievance alleged institutional racism. I represented the engineer, and challenged the Company’s line of questioning and attitude to racism at the hearing.
I also challenged witnesses’ account of events at the hearing. For this I am being accused of intimidating witnesses. Yet, none of the witnesses have complained. I denied these charges with the support of my R.I.O and was sacked on 31st March.
I have been sacked for robustly defending another trade union member who is challenging the racism at Sovereign buses. I have been dismissed for being an effective trade union rep.
I have been subjected to all sorts of harassment at Sovereign since I became a rep. The company agenda has been to try and stop me from being an effective rep. Once this proved unsuccessful, they decided to dismiss me on spurious grounds.
This attack on the trade union needs to be stopped. If Sovereign can sack a union convenor for being effective, this will likely encourage other bus operators to do likewise.
I have been a supporter of the United Left from the outset and I am asking comrades to support our union reps at Sovereign and support the campaign for my reinstatement.
Abdul Omer Mohsin
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