Graham slammed for ‘deceptive’ claim about Abellio pay deal and Unite tricking drivers into voting for it

Drivers claim they were conned into voting for below-inflation package trumped by Unite general secretary as big win, according to WSWS

Sharon Graham has been slammed by bus drivers for claiming Unite won them an 18% pay rise – and for her reps deceiving them into voting for a deal in fact worth much less than they were asking – according to the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS).

Graham trumpeted – accompanied, as so often, by an image in which she features prominently and in this case as the only recognisable person – the ‘pay deal worth 18%’. But the reality is far less – and the drivers say they were first pressured by union reps into dropping the £20/hour they were demanding and then conned into voting for a far lower package.

According to WSWS, the headline 18% only applies to a small subset of Abellio drivers – senior drivers and those ‘TUPE’d’ across from other companies – while many drivers are receiving far less and all drivers are seeing their overtime rates slashed drastically compared to inflation:

The 18 percent headline rate of an increase to £18 an hour applies only to senior drivers and TUPED drivers (transferred from other bus companies) and is offset by overtime rates pegged far below inflation. For this reason the deal is worth 13.5 percent across all elements. For day drivers, voluntary overtime Monday-Friday will rise by just 8 percent and 9 percent on weekends. For night drivers, voluntary overtime Monday-Friday will rise by only 6.6 percent, 8 percent on weekends and by 8 percent for involuntary overtime. 

The deal cements the two-tier wage system which drivers were fighting to overcome with new starters (those with up to two years’ service) receiving an uplift to just £15.05 an hour. For both senior and new drivers the uplifts to £18 and £15.05 an hour is for Monday to Friday with well below inflation increases for Saturday and Sunday shifts of around 9 and 4 percent respectively.

Emphases added

Worse, drivers say that after they initially voted overwhelmingly to reject the pay offer, the union held what it told them was a ‘consultative’ online vote – and then treated that vote, with its lower turnout, as a binding acceptance:

Drivers rejected the company-union agreement in a ballot on January 26, 786 votes to 373, but it was imposed by Unite via an online “survey” and non-binding “consultative ballot” which drivers rightly view as illegitimate.

Unite issued an announcement to Abellio members on Monday after a meeting of its lead officials, reps and the convenor, led by Kasab, Langston and Matthew Dore-Weeks. It was headlined, “MEMBERS VOTE TO ACCEPT OFFER”. It began, “Unite members voted by 603 votes to 515 votes to accept the Abellio’s latest offer. This ends the current strike.”

Drivers slammed Graham’s ‘self-aggrandising’ and the way her representatives handled the settlement, with some even saying the ‘win’ represented lower pay for many workers than Abellio had been ready to offer before the dispute because of drivers leaving for other jobs:

Even before the dispute Abellio had offered around £17 an hour because they were losing drivers to other companies like Go-Ahead. In the space of a week Abellio lost around a 100 drivers.

I rejected the deal in the consultation ballot. We were lied to— that this was a survey not a ballot. They lied through their teeth. Langston, Kasab and the others put their name to this deal. They would not answer that in the Zoom meeting when the driver brought up the WSWS article.

I know drivers in the north of England, I think it was Stagecoach, won a better deal but that was only because they carried on striking after Unite recommended the previous offers.

I wanted to keep striking and fighting for our rights but I feel the union was trying to close a deal a long time ago.

I am a new driver on lower pay but I am working the same job as other drivers, working the same hours. That is why I joined Unite because they were saying that we are all equal and we all fight for our rights. 

I thought that they were working for us and to support us, but now I feel they just want more members, because they doubled their membership. 

At the end, it was not only about money. We were fighting for the working conditions—to improve those conditions. Our shifts vary between 7 or 11 hours, and it doesn’t matter how long you work for, you still only get the same meal break time. You may start early in the morning and finish late at night. People are tired. So we wanted the same shift for a whole week or a similar shift. 

The Abellio dispute is not the first time that Sharon Graham has been accused of wrongly claiming credit. She also claimed an uplift in Unite’s ‘strike pay’ for workers in disputes was because of her, which in reality had been in place before she became the union’s general secretary.

Unite has said more than two months ago that it will not reply to media enquiries from Skwawkbox. Attempts to obtain responses since have been unsuccessful.

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