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US trade unionists confront privateer FirstGroup

US TRADE unionists trekked all the way to Aberdeen to confront transnational transport privateer FirstGroup at its AGM yesterday.

The firm faced a minority shareholder rebellion as its board asked investors to sign off on a £1.9 million pay package for head honcho Tim O’Toole — a staggering 86 per cent pay rise.

The deal represents an £800,000 raise in the space of a year, with an annual bonus of £600,000.

The jaw-dropping largesse was enough to warrant a personal visit from the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the US Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), whose terminal worker members at subsidiary Greyhound are paid less than £6.40 an hour.

ATU international vice-president Bruce Hamilton, who attended the meeting, told the Morning Star that the company “did not respond with the commitment that we were seeking” — a raise to at least £8.75 an hour.

“If they think this is going to go away, they are wrong. Terminal workers deserve justice, and they are going to fight until they have it,” he said.

In Scotland, Unite union engineers working on Glasgow’s buses are balloting for strike action during the Commonwealth Games in response to a “derisory” below-inflation pay offer.

Meanwhile train drivers’ union Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the pay gap was further proof of the need to renationalise Britain’s railways — “where every penny and every pound can be spent on investing in our infrastructure rather than disappearing into private pockets.

“FirstGroup, like many firms, and this isn’t confined to the railway industry, say they can’t afford to pay their staff — the men and women who help create their company’s wealth — any more, while giving a few people at the very top quite extraordinary pay increases.

“No wonder people are concerned,” he said.

A FirstGroup spokesman declined to comment on Greyhound workers’ pay but said Mr O’Toole’s raise represented the end of a three-year freeze on basic pay for the company’s executive directors.

“For a company of this scale it is important to ensure that we attract and retain the highest-quality management motivated to deliver outstanding performance,” he said.

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