In South Africa GroundUp: Uber and Out in Cape Town
• 27 MAY 2016 12:21 (SOUTH AFRICA)
“Make good money. Drive when you want. No office, no boss.” This is Uber’s enticing pitch to new drivers, but the reality can be very different. GROUNDUP's KIMON DE GREEF talks to over-worked, over-tired and under-paid Uber drivers in Cape Town.
First published by GroundUp
The BP garage parking lot at Cape Town International Airport has space for more than 60 cars. It is full from before dawn until midnight all weekend, but not with customers. Motorists seldom need to queue for the station’s ten petrol pumps. The Express convenience store, with its bright-lit Wild Bean Café counter, rarely has more than five clients inside at a time.
Out in the lot, tucked against the scrubby verge, drivers lean against their vehicles — polished Toyota Corollas, Hyundai Accents, Honda Accords — or rest with their doors open and seats reclined. When it rains they shut the doors and their windows mist up. A BP security guard with a badge and clipboard paces the tarmac, monitoring how long each driver has been parked. Until the guard tells them to move, or until their smartphones chime like slot machines, or until the late flights arrive and the airport empties, the drivers do not leave.
On a recent Sunday morning, Arthur*, a 29 year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), sat at a table inside the store, eating fries drenched in mayonnaise. His eyes were bloodshot after less than two hours sleep, and less than two hours the night before — the naps he’d snatched between trips, hunched up in his rented vehicle, amounted to perhaps three additional hours each day. His phone, lying face-up on the table beside him, displayed a map of the airport with a countdown clock. The waiting time until his next ride, it indicated, was “60+” minutes.
“We have no choice,” he said, watching the screen. “We have to sit here and wait. We have to work these crazy hours to bring in enough money.”
An Uber driver like the rest of the men in the parking lot, Arthur had woken at 3am that Friday and arrived at the airport an hour later, his usual strategy on weekends. Squeezed by lower rates and sluggish off-season demand, Cape Town drivers target the airport because it practically guarantees long rides back to the city. Shortly before midnight, after 18 hours online and only four trips — worth less than R600 in total, before deductions — he left the airport and drove to town, where he ferried clients from Long Street, Kloof, and Bree. He arrived home in Mowbray, where he currently lives with his mother and siblings, at 4am; he doesn’t recall what time he woke up.
“When you’re that tired you don’t keep track,” he said. “You just wash, eat, sleep.”
He was back at the airport for another 20-hour shift by 7am on Saturday, remaining online until three the next morning. It was approaching noon when I met him on Sunday; he’d been working for seven hours. He told me he was “feeling fine.”
Records from Arthur’s driver app reveal that he worked a total of almost 95 hours that week, grossing R4,625. From this figure, Uber subtracted its standard 20% cut, equal to R925. Arthur paid R2,500 towards car rental. He estimates his fuel cost him another R1,000. Mobile data, essential for running the app, cost R100. He also paid to have the car washed and vacuumed three times — it is important to keep Uber vehicles spotless to ensure good ratings from clients — at R75 a service.
In all, he spent approximately R125 more than he earned that week, working an average of 13.5 hours for seven consecutive days.
Uber's pitch versus reality
Uber has improved transport options, especially for middle-class and high-earning working class people in the city. Marcus Low has described on GroundUp how much better the service is than metered taxis. But in a country with chronic unemployment and stark income inequality, the service carries hidden costs.
Uber’s website pitches a good deal to prospective drivers. “Earn money on your own terms,” it states. “Full-time and part-time driving jobs for independent contractors in Cape Town give you the flexibility to work as much or as little as you want.”
A sign-up page invites drivers to “Make good money. Drive when you want. No office, no boss.”
But while some Uber drivers in Cape Town have had positive experiences with the app, which launched nationally in August 2013, the majority do not come close to achieving the company’s advertised lifestyle and income targets, GroundUp can report, after more than 30 interviews with drivers — especially since Uber South Africa (SA) unilaterally dropped its per-kilometre rate from R7 to R6 in April this year.
In South Africa, unlike many countries worldwide, most Uber drivers work for ‘partners’, or investors able to finance new cars. Some Cape Town partner firms own and operate fleets of more than 50 vehicles each. Splitting their earnings with their ‘employers’ — a contested term when it comes to Uber, but applied here to partners — these drivers often earn considerably less than R1,000 a week, working long hours of overtime.
“The system isn’t working for us,” said Karabo*, a young South African driver. “It’s good for the company and for clients. It makes sense for partners with money. If you invest in a car it will keep generating income. You’ll have a nice balance sheet, and be able to apply for bigger loans. But with current prices and demand many drivers are struggling to survive.”
Uber SA spokesperson Samantha Allenberg could not confirm how many drivers were currently using the app in Cape Town, nor what percentage of these drivers were working for partners.
“Driver-partners are self-employed and as such have the flexibility to work when they choose,” she said.
Allenberg said that Uber had “enabled over 4,000 economic opportunities” in South Africa. Uber currently offers services in Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg/Pretoria. Drivers interviewed for this article estimated that there were currently between 2,000 and 3,500 cars operating in the Cape Town area, which includes Bloubergstrand, Paarl, Franschoek, Stellenbosch, and Somerset West.
Drivers not united
Though dissatisfaction is widespread, not all drivers are unhappy with their current situation. Waiting for his next client in the BP parking lot, Claude*, a thickset Burundian man resident in South Africa for over a decade, said that he “appreciated the opportunity” Uber offered him.
“Every job has its challenges,” he said, waving away objections from other drivers. “I used to work as a security guard. I worked 12 hours a day, 30 days a month, for R4,000. With Uber I’ve improved my standard of living.”
The company didn’t force him to work long hours, he said. “We’re human; we want to earn more money. That’s why we work so much overtime.”
He added that he slept in the car (a partner’s) every weekend — “Like a cockroach, getting cold; it beats you; you get so tired” — and commonly drove 24-hour shifts to support his wife and eight children.
“But if the price was better you wouldn’t have to drive so much,” argued a Zimbabwean driver listening in on the interview. “You say Uber doesn’t force us to work these hours, but we don’t have any choice. Now you’re working so hard for such little money, not sleeping, and risking the lives of your passengers.”
A WhatsApp group formed by Uber drivers attempting to form a workers’ union includes shared photographs of recent accidents involving Uber drivers. The group currently has more than 200 members. Karabo, the young South African driver, is a member of the group’s steering committee.
“Accidents are much more frequent now due to driver fatigue,” he said.
Responding to written questions, Uber SA’s Samantha Allenberg said that the company “strictly monitored” drivers’ hours and had “robust processes in place” to prevent drivers from working when tired.
These processes include “monitoring working patterns to ensure that a driver doesn't work for too long consecutively, or for excessive hours in a given week,” and “reviewing real-time customer feedback ... that might flag any issues with a driver's driving.”
Allenberg declined to answer whether Uber SA kept a record of accidents involving its drivers, or whether these accidents had increased in Cape Town over the last 12 months.
Uber SA does not recognize any form of collective driver representation, instead dealing with drivers on a one-to-one basis. In keeping with the company’s increasingly criticised international policy, local drivers are classified as subcontractors, not employees. This means they are denied rights to minimum wages, paid overtime, or compensation.
With a “very high” proportion of Uber drivers in Cape Town hailing from other African countries — Zimbabwe, the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia — a major obstacle to forming a union has been "low education and exposure to worker’s rights", Karabo said.
"Many of these guys have never worked a formal job before,” he said. “They don’t know that they are protected. They’re willing to work for almost nothing. When we talk to them about standing together, or about getting Uber to treat us better, they just say that they need to put food on the table, and that they’d rather keep working.”
The trouble with Cape Town
The BP security guard is stricter during the week, and only allows Uber drivers to park for 15 minutes at a time. He records car registration numbers on his clipboard. If drivers spend money in the shop, he lets them stay longer. But drivers keep congregating at the airport because airport trips typically gross R120 or more — “not these joke trips you get in town,” Karabo said.
“Cape Town is a small city. It isn’t like Joburg, where I come from. Here, you seldom get a ride further than Claremont. You end up using too much petrol. I've tried many strategies, but now I'm just sticking to the airport."
A short distance from the BP garage, wedged between the container yards and warehouses of Airport Industria, more than 80 Uber drivers are gathered in a dusty lot owned by a freight company. Gospel music blares as they polish their cars. A woman sells pap with spinach. The drivers, as per Uber requirements, are neatly dressed.
“Often we wait four hours for a trip here,” says Jonathan*, from Zimbabwe. “At R6 a kilometer we’re lucky to take home R700 in a week.”
He opens the trunk of his car (a partner’s) to show me a blanket and small rucksack. “My change of clothes is in there, and a toothbrush. You must be prepared to sleep on the road.”
“It makes us very angry,” says Kenneth, another Zimbabwean, who was online for 108 hours last week. “Uber doesn’t listen. They’re killing us.”
Samantha Allenberg told GroundUp that price cuts were “designed to help drivers” by boosting demand. She added that Uber would be reviewing its price cuts in coming weeks.
“If cuts don’t pan out the way we expected them to for drivers, we’ll reassess.”
Last week’s announcement that Uber drivers will soon be accepting cash payments for rides — raising fear among drivers that this will cause conflict with the minibus taxi industry — was in part motivated by an underwhelming response to the fare decrease, according to company communication.
“As part of the fare reduction experiment we have seen a huge number of people signing up but unable to take a ride because their cards do not work,” states an email asking drivers to attend compulsory training sessions last week. (Drivers who did not attend were threatened with disconnection from the app.)
Arthur, from the DRC, told GroundUp that most struggling drivers came from “trouble countries like Zimbabwe and Congo” and had no option but to accept Uber’s terms.
“But the worst thing is when customers ask how things are going, or what I think of these price cuts,” he said, setting his fries aside. “Some of them listen, but others tell me that’s how the world works, that if I don’t like Uber I should quit. They tell me people work for much less money in China. Who can you speak to? I’m telling you. Nobody cares.” DM
* Names have been changed to protect drivers’ identities.
Kimon de Greef is a freelance journalist from Cape Town.
Photo: Uber drivers wait at Airport Industria for their next ride. (Photo: Kimon de Greef)Tags: UberSouth Africa
Japan Rail Workers Doro-Chiba Statement Opposing US President Barack Obama’ Visit to Hiroshima Action Committee for the 71st Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th
Japan Rail Workers Doro-Chiba Statement Opposing US President Barack Obama’ Visit to Hiroshima Action Committee for the 71st Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th
Statement Opposing US President Barack Obama’ Visit to Hiroshima
Action Committee for the 71st Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th
14-3-705 Noborimachi, Naka ward, Hiroshima City
Telephone/Fax: 082-221-7631 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We oppose the planned visit of the US President Barack Obama to Hiroshima on May 27th after Ise-Shima Summit.
The summit is a conference of warmongers and plunderers representing the interest of financial and military big powers of only seven countries called the G7 to discuss how to share and rule the markets and resources and their sphere of influence over the world. The main agenda will be a new Korean war (i.e. nuclear war) to overthrow the North Korean regime. Obama is to play the leading role of this war meeting as the possessor of the world’s largest nuclear military force. On his visit to the city of Hiroshima, Obama will be accompanied by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose Cabinet passed a new law permitting Japan to engage in war and trampled on the peoples’ anti-war voices with the A-bomb victims at the forefront of the struggle. Further, the Abe administration decided in a recent Cabinet meeting that “both the use and the possession of nuclear weapons is constitutional” (April 1, 2016), reversing the previous interpretation of the Constitution that Japan can never participate in war. Abe insists that Obama’s visit will be a major force for the realization of a world free from nuclear weapons. But these words are utterly deceptive.
We must not allow Obama to set foot in the Peace Park with his “nuclear football.”
The United States is the world’s largest nuclear military power and one that is continuing to wage destruction and slaughter by air raids in the Middle East and continues to use Okinawa island to house its base and prepare for a new war: a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula. And Obama is the commander in chief of the United States Armies. How can we call this warmonger “a figure of hope for the elimination of nuclear weapons” or a “messenger of peace”? Moreover, Obama intends to come to Hiroshima with his emergency “nuclear football.” We must never allow his visit to Hiroshima!
Obama and the US government have repeatedly refused to apologize for the atomic bombings on Hiroshima. This declaration means that Obama and his government do not allow any attempt to question the legitimacy of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By inviting Obama to Hiroshima, Abe himself has tried to deny the responsibility for Japan’s war of aggression just as Obama evades US responsibility for the A-bombs. By denying responsibility for the war, Abe aims to open a way toward a new imperialist war: nuclear war.
What Obama actually said in his Prague speech is the maintenance of the nuclear monopoly and ability to carry out nuclear war by US.
“As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary… But we go forward with no illusions. Some countries will break the rules. That’s why we need a structure in place that ensures when any nation does, they will face consequences.” This is the crux of Obama‘s Prague speech in April 2009.
In fact, the Obama administration has been maintaining and evolving its nuclear forces. Obama plans to spend $1 trillion (more than 100 trillion yen) to modernize nuclear weapons over 30 years. For this reason, 12 subcritical nuclear tests and new types of nuclear tests were carried out between November 2010 and 2014. In addition, the USA has entirely opposed on many occasions any resolution for banning nuclear weapons. The very person who has strongly supported this outrageous USA policy is Abe, who insists on the need for a nuclear deterrent while advocating Japan as the “only bombed nation” in the world. Abe’s aim is that Japan becomes “a potential nuclear power” by restarting nuclear power plants and developing rocket technology. With the recent Cabinet decision that both the possession and use of nuclear weapons are constitutional, the Abe administration has explicitly revealed its intention for nuclear armament.
“The USA must monopolize nuclear weapons.” “The nation which does not follow the USA’s rules should face consequences.” This logic to justify nuclear monopoly and nuclear war is totally incompatible with the anti-war will of the workers and people, most of all the survivors of the atom bombs, known as the hibakusha.
Obama is preparing a new nuclear war all while he is making deceitful propaganda by talking about “a world without nuclear weapons.”
This January, Obama dispatched the strategic nuclear bomber B52 over the Korean Peninsula to counter North Korea’s nuclear tests with the aim of demonstrating that the US was ready to actually carry out a nuclear war. Then from March through April, he enforced the largest US-ROK joint military exercises ever on the assumption of a nuclear war. On February 24th, USFK (the United States Forces Korea) commander testified at the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearing: “If a collision occurs on the Korean Peninsula, the situation becomes the equal to that of the WWII. The scale of troops and weapons involved is comparable to that of the Korean War or the WWII. There will be a great number of dead and wounded due to its more complicated character.”
The USA military is now thoroughly calculating and intends to execute a plan of a Korean war (nuclear war), one which will exceed the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the orders of Obama, commander in chief.
In short, by visiting Hiroshima, Obama seeks to deceive the survivors and working people of the world as if he is striving for nuclear disarmament all while he aims to get the approval for his nuclear strikes on North Korea. There is no room for reconciliation or compromise between Obama and us Hiroshima people who have been fighting against nuclear weapons and war since August 6th, 1945.
The unity and international solidarity of the working class people has the power to abolish nuclear arms.
People say that when Obama comes to Hiroshima and visits the Peace Museum, he will be more serious in working for the abolition of nuclear arms. But this is a groundless illusion. What was the content of the review of US Secretary of State Kerry, who visited the Peace Memorial Museum and “sincerely” viewed the exhibition after the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in April? He wrote: “War must not be the first means but the last resort.”
That was Kerry’s immediate impression of the Peace Museum. And still they Kerry and Obama alike are preaching the need to maintain the war (that is, a nuclear war) as a last resort! The rulers of the United States have enough knowledge about the reality of the nuclear explosion through the findings of the ABCC (Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) research, including the cases of serious internal exposure, and have long concealed the facts and materials regarding nuclear disaster. That is why they will by no means renounce the nuke as a final weapon.
War and the nuke are indispensable for the capitalists and the dominant power of the 1% to rule and divide the working people of the 99%: they try to bring antagonism among working people of the world and force them to kill each other for the interests of imperialism. We are witnessing the politics of “killing workers” such as dismissal, irregularization, ultra-low wages and overwork, and the politics of suppressing struggles such as those against war, nuclear arms and power, and military bases. The aggressive war (nuclear war) is the continuation of these politics and it’s Obama and Abe who are enforcing these politics.
We reject the idea to ask Obama and Abe to make efforts for peace or to take countermeasures by means of nuclear weapons like the rulers of North Korea and China. Instead, the working people of the 99% will unite and achieve international solidarity to fight back firmly against the rulers of the 1%. This is the only way to eliminate war and nuclear arms. The primary task we have to do is forming solidarity with the KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions), who is fighting with repeated decisive general strikes against the new Korean war being prepared by the “Korea-USA-Japan military alliance.”
We call upon all citizens to participate in the demonstrations on May 26th-27th against the visit of Obama to Hiroshima, shoulder to shoulder with atomic bomb sufferers who stand fast to their anti-war and anti-nuclear principle in solidarity with fighting labor unions and student councils.
May 19th, 2016Tags: Doro-Chibanuclear weaponsHiroshima
ATU 1764 First Transit D.C. Circulator drivers reach wage parity deal
By Luz Lazo May 20
D.C. Circulator drivers, union members and others rallied last month on Columbus Circle in support of the bus drivers. Drivers voiced concerns over low pay and unsafe working conditions. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
The company that operates the D.C. Circulator and the union that represents the workers have agreed to increase wages — the kind of raises that will bring the bus drivers’ salaries on par with those of Metrobus drivers.
Under a new three-year contract negotiated between First Transit and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1764, some of the Washington region’s lowest-paid public transit operators will transition to become some of the best-paid. The top wages will increase from the current $23.47 hourly rate to $31.69 by the end of the contract. First Transit has also agreed to triple its contribution to the worker’s retirement savings 401(k) plan, union leaders say.
The benefits agreed upon in the contract are contingent upon the District allocating extra funds for the operations of the bus system. The ATU, which represents Circulator’s 189 drivers, had asked the city to provide $3 million in the next budget to cover the wage and benefit increases. The city’s transportation committee made a recommendation for $1 million, essentially leaving First Transit to cover the rest.
It could not be immediately determined on Friday whether any progress has been made in the budget negotiations on the city front. But some city leaders have said in recent weeks that they are working to find funds to incorporate in the next fiscal budget that is currently under review.
“The city told us to negotiate the contract so we did our part,” said Sesil Rubain, the trustee with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1764. “Now it’s up to the city to come up with the funding.”
[D.C. Circulator drivers step up fight for wage parity]
The District funds the Circulator service but entrusts Metro with Circulator operations and oversight. Metro contracts with First Transit to run the system. The company, which operates several other bus systems across the United States, has run the Circulator since its launch more than a decade ago and is on a $41.6 million, two-year contract that expires next year, according to Metro.
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After hearing that the company had argued that it does not have enough revenue to increase the pay, D.C. Department of Transportation Director Leif A. Dormsjo said last month that the city would pay for the higher wages if the union successfully negotiated them.
DDOT spokesman Terry Owens said the agency is “pleased to hear that labor and management have reached a new 3-year agreement reflecting more competitive wages and benefits for DC Circulator operators.” He said DDOT has requested information from Metro on additional contract costs associated with this agreement.
Drivers had been rallying for months for better salaries, complaining that they provide the same level of service as Metrobus drivers but earn significantly less. Labor leaders said the wage gap has created high turnover in the D.C. Circulator operations, as drivers come in at $16.56 an hour, train, stay two or three years, and often move on when they see it will take a decade to reach the top hourly pay of $23.47.
Drivers often go to Metro, which has a starting hourly wage of $19 that can rise in time to as much as $34, according to Metro and labor contracts.
The union membership ratified the contract this week, and the union and First Transit are expected to officially sign it within days, Rubain said. Once that’s done, the salaries will go into effect immediately, he said, noting that all workers will get a pay raise. Drivers at the top of the pay scale of $23.47 will get raises over the next three years until they reach the $31.69 hourly rate.
As part of the labor negotiations, Union leaders say First Transit has also agreed not to require employees to drive buses that are not in a safe operating condition, answering to growing calls for safety improvements.
An August report by the consulting firm Transit Resource Center found that First Transit had fallen short on maintenance, with some defects severe enough that buses should have been pulled from service until they were repaired. A follow-up inspection in January of a smaller sample of buses found improvements, yet lingering maintenance issues.
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[Multiple critical safety defects found on D.C. Circulator buses, audit says]
The first audit found many examples of neglected maintenance, including instances of engine defects because of oil leaks that were not repaired, and windows that wouldn’t open because they were not lubricated during routine inspections. There were defective mirrors, windshield washers and other equipment controlled by the driver, the inspection of 42 of the D.C. Circulator’s oldest buses showed. Poor oversight has led to troubling safety and operational flaws, according to the audits commissioned by DDOT.
City officials said many of the flaws found in the August audit have been fixed and that DDOT is taking a greater role in the oversight of oversight of the city’s distinctive red buses that provide more than 5.1 million trips annually on six lines.Tags: ATU 1764First TransitDC Transit
Thousands of French Port Workers Protest Labor Reforms in Le Havre
© AFP 2016/ CHARLY TRIBALLEAU
15:33 26.05.2016(updated 15:41 26.05.2016) Get short URL
Thousands of French port workers gathered on Thursday in a large-scale demonstration against labor laws in central Le Havre, a major port city in northern France, local media reported.
© AFP 2016/ FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI
French Nuclear Plant Employees to Hold 24-Hour Strike Against Labor Bill
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Some 3,600 port and dock workers were greeted with applause as they marched into the city square where thousands have been rallying since morning, according to Normandie Actu news website.
Thursday’s demonstrations brought together between 8,000 and 30,000 protesters in Le Havre, according to police and trade unions’ reports cited by local broadcaster France Bleu.
Tens of thousands rallied across Normandy today, scaling up pressure on Prime Minister Manuel Valls to withdraw the unpopular labor bill that seeks to relax hiring and firing rules.
Over the week, protests blocked six of France’s eight oil refineries and disrupted train services, leading to a significant fuel shortage. In a bid to allay fears, the government said Tuesday that many ways of transporting fuel inside the country were still available, including through ports.French dockworkersport workersFrench workers
French strike hits refinery output in labour reform showdown
May 24, 2016 1:55 AM EDT
French workers and protesters walk near a barricade to block the entrance of the fuel depot of the society SFDM near the oil refinery of Donges, France,
May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
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By Marc Leras and Brian Love
MARSEILLE/PARIS (Reuters) - France's Socialist government drew battle lines with one of the country's biggest trade union's on Tuesday over labour market reforms as a strike by oil workers forced at least five refineries to halt or slow down operations.
Riot police fired tear gas and water canon to break up a picket line blocking access to Exxon Mobil Corp's refinery outside the southern port city of Marseille, as scores of petrol stations nationwide ran dry of fuel.
"Enough is enough," said Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
The pre-dawn swoop drew a sharp riposte from the hardline CGT union, which wants to force President Francois Hollande's government to rethink the labour reforms designed to make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees.
The CGT described the police operation as an act of "unprecedented violence" as it and other unions served notice of a June 3-5 strike by air traffic controllers that will dovetail with walkouts by state rail employees, port workers and staff on the Paris metro and suburban rail networks.
The CGT, traditionally one of France's most powerful and influential trade union groups, says the reforms will unravel France's protective labour regulations, allowing firms to lay off staff more easily in hard economic times and by providing further exemptions from rules on pay and working conditions.
CGT boss Philippe Martinez vowed to push on with the strikes until Hollande withdraws the legislation.
"We'll see this through to the finish," Martinez said. "This is a government which has turned its back on its promises and we are now seeing the consequences."
Total S.A., said on Tuesday that it had shut down its Gonfreville and Feyzin refineries, was in the process of halting operations at two others and was reducing output at a fifth refinery.
The company's chief executive said the strikes could make it reconsider investments in its French plants.
Total's U.S. rival Exxon Mobil Corp. said its two French refineries were operating at normal levels, but damage to the road and terminal tracks at the southern Fos-Sur-Mer plant meant trucks could not load.
FUEL PUMP QUEUES
Hollande, plagued by dismal popularity ratings a year from elections and an unfulfilled promise to lower a jobless rate stuck at about 10 percent, says labour reform is crucial to creating new jobs.
The president blamed the fuel blockade on a small minority of people.
In parts of France, motorists swamped petrol stations, some using real-time mobile phone applications to learn where they could refill without queuing for hours or being turned away.
The panic-buying amid fuel rationing in parts of France will compound the troubles of Hollande and his government as they strive to convince voters that "things are getting better".
"The Prime Minister said there is no problem, but he doesn't see this spreading in Paris and maybe the rest of France," said Katharina Lefevre, who queued for two hours to buy fuel.
Emergency stocks could keep fuel stations open for up to two months if tapped, according to experts. But Valls said pickets aimed at halting distribution would not be tolerated.
Hollande, France's most unpopular leader in recent memory, has said he will only run for re-election if he hauls the jobless rate down.
The International Monetary Fund said France's economy was not recovering quickly enough to cut unemployment and debt significantly, and would not do so without further reforms.
(Additional reporting by Bate Felix, Emmanuel Jarry and Reuters TV,; Editing by Andrew Callus and Richard Lough)
Tourists hit by French strikes
Travel misery hit British tourists going to and from France today as a French strike affected both air and ferry services.
The dispute, part of a long-running row over proposed pension reforms, led to the cancellation of dozens of flights and the scrapping of some cross-Channel sailings.
British Airways cancelled 90 of its 120 planned flights between Britain and France, while bmi was operating only six out of its normal 24 flights.
Also, low-cost carrier easyJet scrapped 37 flights to and from France.
Dover-Calais ferry operator P&O Ferries was able to operate sailings up to 7am UK time before a walkout by French dockers halted sailings.
"The dockers all went in for a meeting and we had to stop sailing as there was no one to load and unload the ships or to tie them up," said P&O spokesman Brian Rees.
He went on: "We hope sailings may be able to start again by late morning."
P&O also had to cancel one of its Portsmouth to Cherbourg sailings, with passengers being moved on to the Portsmouth-Le Havre route.
Some passengers unable to sail from Calais switched to the Channel Tunnel shuttle trains run by the Eurotunnel company which were running normally.
• Austrian public transport ground to a halt today as workers across the country took part in the biggest nationwide strikes since the Second World War.
Strike action was launched in protest at the government's planned overhaul of Austria's generous but expensive pension system that would reduce retirement benefits by around 11 percent.
Buses, trains, the underground rail network and trams went of operation shortly after midnight and were due to remain so until late Tuesday night.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-183285/Tourists-hit-French-strik...
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Several San Diego First Student bus lines shut down as IBT 542 union drivers go on strike
By Debbi Baker | 8:51 a.m. May 25, 2016
First Transit bus drivers strike in front of company headquarters in Kearny Mesa Wednesday morning. — John Gastaldo
Hundreds of bus drivers went on strike Wednesday morning leaving thousands of commuters who rely on public transportation without rides.
The First Transit union workers walked out after they and their employer reached an impasse in contract negotiations over wages.
Teamsters union 542 said on its website that it had rejected the company's "last, best and final offer" and the drivers formed picket lines beginning at 3 a.m. this morning. The union said that strikers will be picketing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to MTS officials, the work stoppage will not affect most routes and all trolleys, however at least 18 lines are being disrupted.
They are 14, 18, 25, 83, 84, 88, 833, 851, 870, 944, 945, 945A, 964, 965, 972, 973, 978 and 979, said MTS spokesman Rob Schupp. Lines 25 and 964 will, however, have some limited service, said Schupp.
Some 4,300 people travel on those routes on weekdays and they should all "seek other arrangements," Schupp said.
Contingency plans have also been made for the people who take the MTS Access service, which caters to those who need help getting on and off public transportation. The spokesman said that 1,400 trips have been scheduled today and that all of those buses will be replaced by non-union drivers or Yellow cabs.
People who need more information can call (619) 233-3004 or check the company's website.Tags: IBT 542First Studentstrike
School Bus Company First Student to pay $11.5 million to settle SF school-bus lawsuit after driver health and safety whistleblowers sued
School Bus Company First Student to pay $11.5 million to settle SF school-bus lawsuit after driver health and safety whistleblowers sued
By Jill Tucker
May 25, 2016 Updated: May 25, 2016 5:52pm
The company that supplies San Francisco’s school buses will pay $11.5 million to settle a lawsuit claiming the buses had safety violations.
A school bus company has agreed to pay $11.5 million to settle a whistle-blower lawsuit claiming that the firm used unsafe buses to transport San Francisco students, plaintiffs’ attorneys said Wednesday.
Two mechanics with First Student Inc. filed the lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court, claiming that the company’s buses, provided through the subsidiary Laidlaw Transit, had threadbare tires, worn brakes and other problems because of improper maintenance.
The San Francisco Unified School District will receive $3.5 million of the settlement, and the mechanics and their attorneys will receive the rest.
The lawsuit claimed that the alleged safety violations happened from 2006 through 2011. While the California Highway Patrol performed inspections annually as required during that time, officers did not identify issues. The mechanics, William Padilla and Manuel Contreras, provided records that showed the company misrepresented the safety of the vehicles, attorneys said.
Over a nine-month period, for example, First Student’s records showed 300 violations of the requirement that company mechanics inspect vehicles every 45 days, the attorneys said.
In addition, the bus company ignored reports from mechanics and drivers about the condition of the buses, including “metal-on-metal” sounds when braking, the attorneys said.
“This case is a clear example of predatory corporate conduct, where profits are placed at a higher priority than the safety of children,” said Russell Budd, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
First Student representatives could not be reached for comment. The company replaced its San Francisco fleet of 230 buses last fall after signing a new, five-year contract with the school district.
The mechanics filed the suit in San Francisco Unified’s name.
“When the district heard the allegations, we met with First Student and demanded proof that they were maintaining our buses,” school district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said in a statement. “First Student assured us that these allegations were untrue and, based on our records, we have not been made aware of any safety incidents related to these allegations.”
The district, however, required First Student to submit more frequent evidence that it was complying with safety requirements. Attorneys for the plaintiffs said First Student is now meeting those requirements.
Jill Tucker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: jilltuckerTags: SMART UTU1741School bus health and safety
Seattle’s bus drivers ‘forced to wear adult diapers or carry a jar on their route because toilet access was so bad’
Seattle’s bus drivers ‘forced to wear adult diapers or carry a jar on their route because toilet access was so bad’
By OLLIE GILLMAN
PUBLISHED: 11:47 EST, 24 November 2014 | UPDATED: 13:54 EST, 24 November 2014
Bus drivers in Seattle were forced to wear diapers or carry a jar with them on their route because access to toilets was so bad, a report has claimed.
Drivers' restrooms were not open all hour buses run and some routes did not have toilets within walking distance of bus stops, forcing drivers to wet themselves or urinate in a bottle.
King County Metro Transit had to replace 60 urine-soaked driver's seats in a year and have been fined for not providing facilities for their workers.
Bus drivers in Seattle were forced to wear diapers or carry a jar with them on their route because access to toilets was so bad (file picture)
At times, drivers who went to search for toilets were subsequently punished for running late, according to a report from the Department of Labor and Industries.
King County Metro Transit also failed to ensure Othello Station, Rainier Valley, had running water, paper towels and soap for six years, the Seattle Times reported.
Drivers may have put passengers at risk by holding it in and losing their composure at the wheel because of the lack of bathroom facilities and could have also damaged their kidneys.
Speaking to transport magazine Crosscut, Metro operator Hal Poor said: 'We’ve had drivers wear Depends diapers [a brand of adult diaper]. We’ve had operators carry a jar for urination.
'We’ve got pregnant women who are still driving. You know what kind of pressure that puts on your bladder. We have gentlemen 60 or older. They can’t hold it anymore.'
Drivers get a five-minute break between runs and are supposed to have 15-minute break every five hours - but Mr Poor in reality breaks of this length are few and far between.
Drivers' restrooms were not open all hour buses run and some routes did not have toilets within walking distance of bus stops, forcing drivers to wet themselves or urinate in a bottle (file picture)
'How guaranteed is the 15-minute break if you want to stay on schedule and you’re 12 minutes late?' he asked.
'It’s on paper, but if you get caught in traffic, it doesn’t mean you’re getting it.'
King County Metro Transit was ordered to pay a $3,500 fine by December 22 and come up with a plan to tackle the problem.
Kevin Desmond, Metro’s general manager, said the fine was a wake-up call. He said: 'I would not characterize this as a program failure or a management failure. We learn as people help us see issues we’re challenged with.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2847613/Seattle-s-bus-drivers-fo...
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General Strike In France Getting Closer-Truckers At Refineries Join Strike
French government seeks to crush strikes against labor law
By Alex Lantier
25 May 2016
In the face of expanding strikes by refinery workers and truckers against the new French labor law, the Socialist Party (PS) government sent security forces yesterday to crush oil installation occupations and break the growing oppositional movement.
Since the beginning of the week, all of France's refineries have gone on strike or shut down operations, and truckers have joined to blockade refineries and halt fuel deliveries to gas stations. Broader layers of workers are also moving into struggle. Some port, rail and autoworkers are already on strike, and the trade unions have issued strike calls and requested legal authorization for strikes from June 3 to June 5 at civil aviation facilities and for an unlimited strike against the Paris mass transit system starting June 2.
Early yesterday morning, security forces attacked some 200 members of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) union who were blockading oil installations at Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseille. “The paramilitary police arrived around 4:30 am and used water cannon and tear gas,” said Olivier Mateu, the regional secretary of the Stalinist-controlled CGT.
Confrontation with police over labor law [Photo: Flickr user laetitiablabla]
Police assaults wounded a number of strikers, according to CGT sources, who denounced “virtual war scenes, with volleys of rubber bullets being fired to clear the blockade.”
“The police charges were incredibly violent,” said CGT-Petroleum National Secretary Emmanuel Lépine. Police authorities criticized “significant resistance” by the strikers to the repression, which left seven of their men slightly wounded.
After the clash between strikers and security forces ended, around 6 am, tanker trucks entered the site under police escort. The Fos-sur-Mer site, near France's main oil port in Marseille, plays a critical role not only in France, but in all of Europe, supplying pipelines carrying petroleum to refineries in Cressier in Switzerland and Karlsruhe in Germany.
Despite the brutal repression of the protests, the expanding mobilization of workers has staggered and destabilized the PS government. Yesterday, Transport Minister Alain Vidalies said 20 percent of France's 12,000 gas stations either had “totally run dry or faced shortages of one or two products.”
Trampling on the right to strike, which is inscribed in the French Constitution, the PS is provocatively threatening to crush strikes and blockades across France. On Monday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, “We are totally in control of the situation. I think that a certain number of refineries and fuel depots that have been blockaded are being cleared or will be cleared in the coming hours and days.”
Yesterday, on an official visit to Jerusalem, Valls tried to posture as a defender of auto drivers threatened by fuel shortages, declaring, “We will not allow the French people to face shortages or blockades.” He insisted the PS would impose the labor law even though the population overwhelmingly rejects it. “There will be no retraction of the law,” he said. “Otherwise, we will no longer be able to reform the country.”
It is not the working class but the PS that is threatening basic democratic and social rights, which it is tearing up in authoritarian fashion to conform to the dictates of the banks. Three-quarters of the French people oppose the law, which increases work hours, undermines overtime pay and job security, and allows the unions to negotiate contracts that violate the Labor Code. Due to its unpopularity, the PS imposed the law without a formal vote in the National Assembly, using the reactionary provisions of Article 49-3 of the Constitution.
The PS is signaling that it will seek to break opposition in the working class by force, aiming to isolate and smash successive protests by different sections of workers and youth against the law. In doing so, the PS is carrying out the agenda of austerity and police repression advanced by the ruling class across the European Union (EU). The PS labor law is largely the application in France of the Hartz laws imposed in the face of protests by German workers by the Social Democratic Party a decade ago.
Now, opposition to austerity and the dictatorship of the banks is rising across the EU, including the struggles of Greek workers against the austerity measures of the Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) government.
The blockades of ports, refineries and transport systems is already creating crisis conditions across the French economy. Strikes in Le Havre, France's second port after Marseille, which is strategically important due to its role in supplying northern France and the Paris area, are forcing logistics and shipping companies, as well as the Renault plant in Sandouville, to shut operations.
The corporations and the political elite are terrified of a broader struggle of workers against the PS. Olivier Jean Baptiste, a manager at XPLog, a logistics company in Le Havre, told L'Express: “We worked 24 hours a day over the weekend to try to catch up on the backlog. When the blockades were lifted on Friday, we began work again. Since then we are doing the best we can… If things are cut off again, it will be a catastrophe.”
“Basically, everyone is in a panic,” said an anonymous manager in Le Havre's industrial zone.
Right-wing politicians are even suggesting that the PS might be forced to abandon the labor reform, at least temporarily, in the face of rising opposition from workers. Philippe Vigier, the parliamentary group leader of the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) in the National Assembly, said, “The government has deepened its own isolation. They will have no other option besides retracting the bill.”
Christian Jacob of the right-wing The Republicans (LR) dismissed PS assurances that there would be no retreat on the labor law, declaring, “That is what one says until the day one drops something.”
“We know something about that,” Jacob added, referring to right-wing President Jacques Chirac's decision to suspend the promulgation of the First Job Contract (CPE) in 2006 in the face of mass protests by workers and youth.
An effective struggle against the labor law and EU austerity can be waged only as a conscious international struggle of the European working class, organized independently of the trade union bureaucracies and their political allies, including the Left Front and the New Anti-capitalist Party. The current so-called radical turn of the CGT, layers of which are now publicly calling for strike action against the PS, will prove to be a political trap and dead end for workers seeking to fight the Socialist Party’s policies.
CGT leader Philippe Martinez is pushing the union to adopt demands that are emerging spontaneously among workers, partly to better position the CGT against competing union bureaucracies, but above all to avoid a rebellion of the working class against the entire political setup and confine the workers to the straitjacket of a national struggle.
Le Monde analyzed his strategy yesterday as follows: “Without calling for a general strike, he calls for renewable strike action… Perpetually in crisis, weakened in its traditional bastions of support, threatened with losing its place as France's biggest union to the [pro-PS] French Democratic Labor Confederation in 2017, the CGT is playing for high stakes.”
The union bureaucracies themselves are longstanding political instruments of the same ruling class and political establishment against which the working class is mobilizing in struggle. For four years following the election of a PS government in 2012, they organized no opposition to the government’s savage austerity policies, including the initial negotiation of the labor law.
Dependent on corporate and state financing for 95 percent of their budgets, they are not workers’ organizations, but hollow shells dominated by the financial aristocracy. They will prove not only incapable of leading a longer-term opposition to the PS, but utterly hostile to the explosive opposition that is now emerging in the working class to the PS and the EU.