Today's News and Commentary – October 8

Published October 8th, 2013 -  - 10.08.132


Boston bus drivers are on strike today, leaving 33,000 students without transportation, the Boston Globe reports. The strike, which caught the city and schools by surprise, left city officials and parents scrambling to get children to school. United Steelworkers Local 8751, which represents the striking workers said the “protest reflected the drivers’ frustration at the way they’ve been treated since Veolia [Transportation, Inc.] took over the busing contract this year.” The union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing Veolia of unfair labor practices including failure to bargain with the union, imposition of unilateral changes to terms and conditions of employment, refusal to recognize the union, and failure to utilize contractually-mandated grievance resolution mechanisms.

CBS News reports that Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) labor talks resumed on Monday, as the 60-day cooling off period imposed by Governor Jerry Brown in August comes to a close. The cooling off period follows a four-day strike by SEIU Local 1021 and ATU Local 1555 in July and 30 subsequent days of failed negotiations. BART officials say there is still a $98 million dollar gap between union demands on wages and benefits and BART’s offers. If the two sides do not reach agreement by Thursday night, the end of the cooling period, two of BART’s largest unions could be back on strike on Friday morning.

Inside Higher Ed reports that New York University has agreed to stop opposing graduate student teaching assistants’ efforts to unionize, but only on the condition that the students agree to exclude research assistants from the union. Union leaders dismissed the offer as a public relations move and refused to consider it. As a result, the dispute will remain before the National Labor Relations Board. The union is urging the Board to reverse its 2004 decision finding that graduate students are not employees within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act. That decision was itself a reversal of a prior Board decision recognizing the right of graduate students to unionize.

In international labor news, the New York Times reports that Alcatel-Lucent, a French telecommunications equipment maker, will cut 10,000 jobs, an almost 14% reduction in its 72,344-worker workforce. The cuts will include “4,100 positions in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; 3,800 in the Asia-Pacific region; and 21,000 in the Americas.”

A four-week strike in South Africa ended on Sunday after car parts manufacturers signed a three-year wage agreement with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), according to Reuters. The strike came in the wake of three weeks of industrial action by over 30,000 workers at major automobile manufacturing plants across South Africa.

The New York Times reports that members of Unite, a Scottish trade union, have begun what they are calling a “limited industrial action” against the Grangemouth refinery, to protest the unfair treatment of a long-time union organizer. If the workers go on strike, a possibility they have not ruled out, fuel markets in northern England are likely to be affected.

Irish doctors began a one-day strike today at 51 hospitals around the country, according to the Irish Times. Over 3,000 doctors are expected to participate in the strike, leading to the cancellation of about 12,000 outpatient appointments and 3,000 operations. Emergency rooms will remain open but delays are expected due to reduced staffing levels. The doctors are protesting “dangerously long” working hours which they claim violate a European directive limiting the number of hours medical staff may work.

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