An 80-strong group of Labour MPs has taken the unusual step of writing to shareholders in National Express to urge them to vote down its report and accounts at today's annual meeting over its treatment of drivers of US school buses.
The letter, signed by the group's chairman, Jim Sheridan, argues that the move is needed to "signal the necessity for improved oversight and reporting of human capital policies and practices".
The letter says the company's hailing of its good working relationship with unions in the UK "appears to be very much at odds with the company's approach to industrial relations on the other side of the Atlantic".
"Over the past few years we have learned from National Express Group workers employed by the company's North American school bus subsidiaries and their union representatives of what we believe to be a systemic approach from the company to deny workers their rights to freedom of association and engage in collective bargaining for their working conditions," the letter says. Speaking to The Independent yesterday, Mr Sheridan said the group was moved to act after discussions with US workers. He said he wanted National Express to follow the lead of First Group, where "they had some problem and management went to the US and knocked heads together". "They now work with unions and it hasn't harmed their business," he said.
The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum has also urged its members to vote against the annual report over the same issue.
Members of the Teamsters Union plan to demonstrate at the meeting. General president Jim Hoffa, son of Jimmy Hoffa, who led the union in the 1960s, said this week: "Human rights are being pushed to the limit by Durham School Services. National Express needs to take responsibility for the activities being perpetrated in its name in America."
Last year the company lost a case before a US labour relations board over the firing of an employee who was on her way to vote in a union ballot.