Socialist Worker

Strike forces Stagecoach owner to drive his own bus

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2128

Drivers at Stagecoach Bluebird in the north east of Scotland are set to strike on Friday of this week over pay.

The drivers, members of the Unite union, held a successful strike on Tuesday of last week.

Millionaire Stagecoach boss Brian Souter did his bit to help management’s attempts to break the action by driving a bus in Aberdeen on the strike day.

Despite this, the strike had a big impact – especially on school bus routes across Moray and Aberdeenshire.

Management have responded by upping the offensive and imposing a pay deal on the drivers.

They even had the cheek to tell the press that they were doing it because they worried about strikers being able to pay their bills in difficult economic circumstances.

Yet it is precisely because of these worries that drivers are fighting for a wage of £10 an hour – and for some recognition for the stressful and skilled job that they do.

Stagecoach can easily afford to pay its workers more. It is a highly profitable company that currently controls about 14 percent of bus operations and 25 percent of rail services in Britain.

While many workers worry about the impact of the recession, Stagecoach has boasted that it is benefiting from more people trying to save money by using public transport.

Last month Stagecoach reported that six-monthly profits on its bus operations had leapt 9.2 percent. Profits on British rail operations were up 8.3 percent.

Workers are set to strike again on Monday of next week.


London bus activists' meeting

London bus workers in the Unite union met last week to make plans to step up their pay campaign. Reps and activists from different bus companies reported a strong mood for action.

The union is campaigning for a 5 percent rise or £30,000 a year for drivers at all London bus operators.

Union activists discussed a legal challenge to the injunction that stopped workers at Metrobus from striking last month, and plans to ballot workers across London for strikes.

Some activists also raised questions about why Unite is still funding the Labour Party when the government has failed to revoke the anti-union laws.

Management have used the pause in strike action to try to persuade workers at some companies to accept new offers – so far without any success.

There is a danger that some companies will use the chance of back pay in the run up to Christmas to try to persuade groups of workers to settle – though many feel such a cheap ploy will simply infuriate them.

Union activists are keen to keep up the campaign’s momentum. Richie Moore, Unite rep at Leyton bus garage, joined a group of bus workers protesting outside the London mayor’s question time at City Hall on Wednesday of last week.

He told Socialist Worker, “We want equal pay at all companies and we want them to treat us with a bit of respect.

“We keep this city coing but we are underpaid and undervalued. I hope we’ll all be coming out on strike together – 25,000 bus workers could shut the city down.”


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Article information

News
Tue 18 Nov 2008, 19:32 GMT
Issue No. 2128
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