Bus drivers at Stagecoach Merseyside took hard-hitting strike action last week after rejecting a below-inflation pay offer.
Their four-day strike by members of the Unite union began on Friday of last week and ran over the bank holiday weekend.
Support for the strike was impressive. Six “official pickets” were joined by another 140 drivers close by.
And the strike was solid—only two drivers out of around 350 went in to work.
Stagecoach bosses offered workers a pay rise of just 2 percent, despite the company making £126 million over the last year.
A brilliant 81 percent of drivers rejected the offer.
Drivers point out that their counterparts employed by Arriva in Liverpool, are due a pay rise from September which will put their earnings at £10 an hour.
Stagecoach are offering £9.23 for the same job, so workers are arguing for parity.
But as one driver told Socialist Worker, “Money is the catalyst, but it’s about more than that.”
Drivers report putting up with bullying for years.
“They rule the workforce by intimidation,” said one, adding, “they tell staff that if you don’t like it you can leave and go and drive a white van.”
Strikers told Socialist Worker that drivers have been sacked for smoking a cigarette on the platform at the bus station.
Many drivers have young families and work ten to 12 hour shifts that leave them little time at home.
Low pay means they find it hard to cut back their working hours to spend time with their children.
Now the drivers have had enough.
The spirit among strikers was buoyant. A bread delivery van was turned away, and cashiers and some security staff refused to cross the picket line.
The strike has also brought drivers together—a group of Polish workers were helping to organise a barbecue on the picket line.
Although the strike was solid, management appear to be taking a hard line.
They claim that likely cuts in government subsidies, especially the fuel rebate, means anything more than 2 percent has to be “self-financing” despite company profits.
Stagecoach could afford to bring in scabs to drive buses during the dispute.
Students who took a banner expressing support for the drivers were welcomed on the picket line.
A collection on a coach to the anti-EDL demo in Bradford raised £80.
It was handed over to strikers on the return trip from the demonstration.
Unless management make significant improvements to their offer, there should be further strikes called quickly to keep up the momentum.
Thanks to Liverpool SWP members who helped produce this report
A mass lobby by bus workers of London Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London (TfL) will take place on Wednesday 15 September.
It is over government plans to cut transport funding by 25 to 40 percent.
TfL commissioner Peter Hendy is boasting of a £5 billion cuts package that is already being driven through.
Bus workers already face wage freezes, attacks on conditions and company sell-offs.
The lobby, organised by the Unite union, needs to be a springboard for a London-wide fightback, including strikes, to make sure bus workers and users don’t pay for the bankers’ crisis.
Save our buses lobby, 9.30am, Wednesday 15 September, City Hall, Queen’s Walk, London, SE1 2AA