TRAM DRIVERS in Manchester welcomed in the new year by going on strike for union recognition.
The tram drivers staged a 24-hour strike on New Year's Day following a unanimous vote in a ballot for action. The 160 drivers and other staff are members of the Aslef union which is not recognised by Metrolink bosses. The company only recognises the TGWU union.
Aslef district secretary Colin Smith said, "The drivers want Aslef to be recognised and will not put up with attempts by the company to bully and harass them. Our argument is not with the TGWU, but we believe the way forward is for the company to negotiate with both unions."
More action is planned over the next eight weeks unless the company retreats and makes moves to recognise Aslef.
THE ASLEF union called off planned Christmas and New Year strikes on the premier Gatwick Express line after reaching an agreement with the company over a new pay offer.
Aslef leaders say the deal is worth about 8 percent over the next 26 months, taking the basic pay of a driver to £30,500. That is a step forward after the company, part of the giant National Express group, refused to improve its offer, forcing workers to strike twice.
The 60 Gatwick drivers in Aslef are now balloting on whether to accept the new offer.
THE RMT union suspended two strikes planned for Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve by drivers at the Edgware Road tube depot over the sacking of a colleague, Chris Barrett.
Talks are now to take place at ACAS between the union and London Underground management.
The heart of the dispute is the way London Underground is using sickness and disciplinary procedures to squeeze staff. Chris Barrett was sacked after he followed his doctors' advice over how to recover from an injury. His workmates responded with a solid 24-hour strike and a campaign for his reinstatement.
That campaign is continuing. "It's not just an isolated case," says one Edgware Road driver. So we should not limit our response to a case by case basis. We need to be drawing together the issues and building solidarity between different depots and grades."