Socialist Worker

Bus drivers’ strikes shake bosses

Action in Leeds and on Metroline buses in London is forcing management into reverse, writes Esme Choonara

Issue No. 2031

Some 1,000 striking drivers brought bus services to a standstill in Leeds on Monday of this week. The T&G union members are planning two more days of action before Christmas over attacks on their pensions.

Meanwhile over 2,000 workers at Metroline in London were due to ballot on Wednesday of this week over a new and improved offer on pay.

The Metroline drivers held two very successful days of strike action in November.

Metroline management have now offered a 5.75 percent increase on all elements of pay – the basic hourly rate, overtime and holiday pay.

This is still short of the 6.5 percent the T&G originally claimed, but it is much better than the 3 percent that Metroline management originally offered. This shows that strikes work.

The two days of strike action, with large and confident picket lines, had a huge impact. The company is rumoured to have lost £2 million for each strike day.

Drivers showed their continued resolve to fight for decent pay by overwhelmingly rejecting the last two offers that Metroline made in response to the strikes.

Impressive

A Metroline driver told Socialist Worker that the new offer represents a big step forward.

He said, “It has been obvious all along that Metroline want to pay us as little as they can get away with.

“It is a sign of the success of our strikes that they have had to keep coming back with new offers.”

There was an impressive level of involvement by rank and file bus drivers in the strikes.

As well as workplace meetings, some union reps organised meetings open to members from across the garages.

At these meetings drivers organised their action and discussed problems that they were facing.

This gave drivers a chance to raise arguments they were dealing with – such as how to respond to management’s claims that the strikes would lose the company bus routes.

It also allowed drivers to discuss how to support weaker areas.

This meant that the second day of strike action was stronger than the first.

Many drivers told Socialist Worker about a new mood around the strikes.

“The strike days were really brilliant,” said one driver. “It has been great seeing people getting involved in the union. The strikes raised people’s confidence.”

The strikes brought together people who have worked on the buses for years and a layer of newer recruits, including many migrant workers.

Rank and file

While the new deal represents a big step forward from previous offers, some drivers feel that it still doesn’t go far enough.

“It is still not the £11 an hour basic rate that we wanted,” said one driver. “We have shown that we can have a big impact when we strike, we should hold out for more.”

The two successful strike days in November were followed by two more proposed strike days that were both suspended at the last minute.

This broke the momentum of the strikes and led to some confusion and disorientation among union members.

A driver from the Cricklewood garage in north west London told Socialist Worker that he was concerned with these tactics.

“It was a mistake to suspend the strikes,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going on. It was a waste of a real mood to fight.”

The dispute has raised questions about how the rank and file of the union can shape the decisions on how the dispute is run.

“We didn’t get a vote on whether to suspend the strikes,” said one driver.

“We are the ones who lose money through striking. We are the ones who are fighting for our futures. Shouldn’t it be our decision?”

Check this site for updates on the dispute and the ballot result


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.