Socialist Worker

Bus pay battles are moving up a gear

by Stephen Feddes
Issue No. 2166

More than 400 bus workers at First Aberdeen struck on Tuesday and Friday of last week. They are in the frontline of the fight against First’s national pay freeze for bus workers.

The strikes were held from 3pm to 5pm on both days and had a huge impact by hitting the first day back at school.

Drivers, garage staff and cleaners in the Unite union are also holding a work to rule and overtime ban.

This has forced management to cut back services – showing how much of the bus service ordinarily relies on low paid workers desperate for overtime or working beyond their duties.

Management’s determination to deny the workers’ demands was evident during the first stoppage.

Bosses closed the bus workers’ canteen and toilet facilities for the duration of the strike.

Workers who arrived at the bus depot one minute after the stoppage began were denied entrance to the toilets.


As the strike ended, supervisors attempted to stop workers who were due a break from taking them, saying, “you’ve just had two hours”.

However workers are entitled to paid breaks, and most took them regardless. Indeed, paid breaks are one of the conditions that workers have gone on strike to protect.

Management is determined to strip the workers of some of their conditions, in order to cut costs, despite the fact that First Aberdeen made huge profits last year.

First initially tried to impose a pay freeze. It has since offered the workers a nominal pay rise – but only if they sacrifice their conditions.

This would amount to a pay-cut, as they would no longer be entitled to overtime at time-and-a-half, paid breaks, paid holidays and time-and-a-half on weekends, while split-shifts would become the norm. Workers would only a receive a basic wage.

Drivers, cleaners and garage workers are united in this struggle and the strike was completely solid.

This showed their own determination to win.

One worker said, “We are getting more and more angry with management. To begin with it was around 60-40 in favour of action, but now it is a lot more.”

This was reflected by the fact that 247 voted in favour of the stoppages at the most recent ballot, with 11 against.

The bus workers held a successful one-day strike last month and are have called four more two-hour strikes starting on 1 September.

With the attitude of management hardening, it seems that an all-out, indefinite strike would be the best way to guarantee victory.

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Tue 25 Aug 2009, 19:23 BST
Issue No. 2166
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