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National Express Germany snubs unions

10 Jul 2014
Photo: Adam E. Moreira, GFDL

German unions EVG and Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft (ver.di) have received no response to their letter of November 2012 to the management of National Express Deutschland GmbH asking for constructive co-operation.

In their letter, the unions asked for an undertaking that the sector
collective wage agreement with EVG for regional and local public transport
and the representative collective agreement with ver.di for urban (road)
transport would be respected by National Express in all its operations.

The company has since won two invitations to tender for regional and local public transport in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia alone and is already making intensive preparations to break into the market of passenger transport by road.

Speaking on 27 February, deputy chair of the EVG, Regina Rusch-Ziemba, commented: “The respecting of the sector collective agreement for regional and local public transport on the part of National Express is in our view essential.”

ver.di national executive member Christine Behle stressed: “The prospective entry of the company into long-distance coach services or urban transport is something we view with great concern, if it is not clear that the collective agreements will be respected.”

The multinational is well-known for its aggressive stance towards trade unions in other countries, according to Stefan Heimlich, chair of the ITF urban transport committee.  He said: “We know about the group and its union-hostile activities and intimidation of employees in other countries, such as the USA.  But in Germany, autonomy in collective agreements and social partnership are highly prized by the unions, and are particularly respected in the public transport sector, so it is disappointing to say the least to see a German company behave in this way. We hope that National Express Germany will see sense and start talking constructively with the unions.”

Mac Urata, ITF inland transport secretary, added: "The ITF has long campaigned against multinationals with a track record of aggression towards trade unions. In the case of National Express, its US subsidiary, Durham School Services, has a documented history of anti-worker behaviour, including more than 250 unfair labour practice charges filed against the company since 2001. There were also 57 informal complaints issued by the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees the application of labour laws and workers' rights in the US. These include allegations of coercion and intimidation of employees, unlawful terminations, surveillance and disparate treatment of employees who supported unions.”

EVG and ver.di will be approaching National Express employees, setting up works councils with them and demanding that the collective agreements be respected. They will also inform the authorities for urban public transport and the tendering of public service contracts about the employer’s behaviour regarding collective agreements and trade unions. The unions have also stated that they will not tolerate activities hostile to them, or the intimidation of any workers.

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