Socialist Worker

Bosses fail to stop First bus strike

Issue No. 2160

Striking bus drivers at First South Yorkshire were jubilant after the courts kicked out the firm’s bid to stop their walkout on Friday of last week.

First spent all day Thursday at the high court in Leeds applying for an injunction against the strike, which the Unite union called against a pay freeze.

But the bid was thrown out and First was refused the right to appeal.

The news was greeted with cheers by 30-strong pickets at depots in Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster.

First has been saying jobs may go because of the action. But strikers said the firm could easily raise pay from £9.13 to £10 an hour in line with First workers in Leeds.

This is just one of many disputes underway at First bus across Britain as bosses attempt to make a pay freeze hold.

First made a record £122 million profit on its bus operations last year and recently bid to takeover National Express.

Yet new starters at First South Yorkshire earn just £6 or £7 an hour.

“They’re offering a zero percent ‘rise’ which we find totally unacceptable,” one striking driver said.

Workers are also angry over bullying management and poor overtime payments.

The judge’s ruling shows how things are changing as far as the courts and the bosses’ confidence to use the anti-union laws go.

Last October thousands of London bus workers were prevented from taking strike action after legal threats.

Successful unofficial walkouts by thousands of workers at Lindsey oil refinery drove a coach and horses through the legislation.

Last week Royal Mail also lost in the courts – and the CWU union were awarded costs – after workers were set to walkout anyway.

Bus workers at First Aberdeen voted by around 70 percent for strikes over pay – the latest group to fight First’s national pay freeze.

The workers, members of the Unite union, were set to strike for 24 hours on Thursday of this week, to be followed by an indefinite overtime ban and a work to rule.

Representatives from Unite were in talks with First bosses on Tuesday as Socialist Worker went to press.

The dispute involves around 450 workers in the Unite union, including drivers, depot staff and cleaners.

In recent weeks First Bus bosses have taken a hard line against the Aberdeen workers, even putting out claims that the union was asking for a 52 percent pay rise, when the union claim is actually for 4 percent.

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Tue 14 Jul 2009, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2160
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