Socialist Worker

Millionaire out to kick the low paid

Issue No. 1785

BRIAN SOUTER-multimillionaire boss of South West Trains and union buster. He is the enemy of everyone who wants a decent public transport system. Souter owns Stagecoach, which runs South West Trains. He built his transport empire by exploiting the chaos of the Tories' rail and bus privatisation. He drove other rival bus firms off the road to gain a dominant position in the bus industry.

This was 'predatory, deplorable and against the public interest', according to government body the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Souter seized on the Tories' rail privatisation by putting in a bid for every single one of the 25 rail franchises. He succeeded in winning two of them. An exposé of Souter's business practices for World in Action concluded, 'When the Conservatives offered up the opportunities for arch-capitalism he took them seriously.' His regime on the buses has cut drivers' wages, forcing them to work longer hours. Souter's own wealth has shot up. His personal fortune is a staggering £250 million.

Souter and his sister, a Stagecoach director, share the vast empire which includes mansions in the Scottish Highlands, Perth and Kenya. Souter is determined to use that wealth and power to crush workers fighting low pay. Every worker in Britain has to show that they are just as determined to help the strikers win.

The Bigot

SOUTER HAS used his money and power to try to influence what laws are passed in his native Scotland. He spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in a right wing campaign two years ago to try to keep the anti-gay Section 28 law. The law was designed to stop schools and councils discussing sexuality openly. It left many schoolteachers feeling unable to counter anti-gay bullying against pupils. Souter lined up with other bigots like Cardinal Winning, who proudly calls gay people 'perverse'.

The union buster

'A RELENTLESS strikebreaker.' That is how the Sunday Telegraph referred to Brian Souter last week. It describes his reaction to workers who are trying to win better pay and conditions inside his companies. Stagecoach bus workers around Britain have increasingly been forced to take strike action over the past few years to get a decent pay rise. Souter has tried to put scab drivers in to break the strikes. A striker was killed on a picket line in Blackburn just over three years ago after a scab Stagecoach manager drove into the picket line. Frank Dean was crushed to death against the bus depot wall. But most of the bus strikes have forced Souter to give in, and improve the workers' pay and conditions.

Brian Souter has also tried to attack South West Trains workers before. In 1997 he blamed 'militants' for the chaos in the service. Stagecoach 'reorganised' South West Trains services, which meant 2,000 trains were cancelled in the space of two months. The company had got rid of 70 drivers-some 10 percent of the workforce-causing a critical shortage of drivers.

'Ethics are not irrelevant, but some are incompatible with what we have to do, because capitalism is based on greed'
Brian Souter

The media barons who are backing him

THE MEDIA try to pretend they support the travelling public. But the big media barons have lined up to support fellow millionaire Souter and attack rail workers. They include:

Daily Mail owner Viscount Rothermere.

He heads the £3.2 billion Daily Mail and General Trust media empire. It also owns the Evening Standard, which has tried to witch-hunt the rail strikers, and the Metro newspapers in London, Manchester and Birmingham. Rothermere's family controls shares in the company worth £735 million. His personal wealth is £840 million.

Daily Telegraph owner Conrad Black.

His personal fortune amounts to around £215 million. He owns luxury homes in New York and London, and in his native Toronto, Canada.

Sun owner Rupert Murdoch.

The billionaire is well known for smashing the trade unions in the print industry. He has five homes-three in the US, a luxury penthouse at the back of the Ritz in London, and a home in his native Sydney, Australia.

Travellers' friends?

BOSSES AT Stagecoach, Arriva and other privatised transport companies claim they stand up for ordinary commuters. But privatised bus companies are planning to cut around two million bus services next year, according to a survey of local transport managers. Buses account for seven out of ten public transport journeys-more than twice that of rail. The cuts will especially hit people on low incomes who rely on buses.

Bonanza for Arriva three

ARRIVA IS the other main company attacking its workers for taking strike action. But its directors are raking in money. They include:

  • Robert Davies: salary £307,500, plus bonus £198,000, plus benefits in kind £21,059.
  • Steve Clayton: salary £175,000, plus bonus £92,000, plus benefits in kind £14,122.
  • Steve Lonsdale: salary £170,000, plus bonus £85,000, plus benefits in kind £15,338.

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Article information

Sat 2 Feb 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1785
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