Bus drivers at Stagecoach in Barnsley and Rawmarsh have carried over their strikes into the new year.
A quarter of the Barnsley workforce turned out at 5am on Wednesday of last week to picket the bus garage. An oil lorry refused to cross their picket line.
Stagecoach is struggling to keep up its scabbing operation against the strikers. The company has been relying on managers from other areas coming to drive buses—but fewer have been forthcoming.
“They’ve even got the third highest Stagecoach manager nationally driving a bus today,” said one of the pickets. Barnsley trades council organised a lunchtime rally in support of the strikers.
Members of the Unison, NUT, NASUWT and UCU unions, and students from Barnsley College, came to show solidarity.
One speaker reported that a friend of his was a bus driver on the Isle of Skye. Stagecoach had asked them to take holidays to come to Barnsley and break the strike.
Strikers picked up an envelope dropped by one of the strikebreakers which showed how much they are being paid—£105 expenses plus £50 bonus each strike day.
That means management are paying out £15,500 each strike day as well as reducing fares dramatically to £1. Even so, very few people are using Stagecoach buses.
All the bus drivers are asking for is an extra 26p an hour to bring them up to £9 an hour for a 38 hour week. They also want the increase to be backpaid to the start of April 2011.
They have no extra payments for unsocial hours. Some drivers have to start at 4.30am. The last bus service finishes at 3am but there is no reward for working those hours.
Some 30 non-union drivers have joined Unite since the strike started. Strikers are determined to face down Stagecoach. They have held seven strike days so far and plan another on Monday of next week.
Management finally blinked and held talks with the union on Friday of last week. They offered £9.05 an hour starting immediately—but no back pay. Bosses claimed the funds they would have used for back pay had been spent on paying strikebreakers instead.
Stagecoach also wants to change the dates of pay negotiation, effectively making their offer an 18 month deal.
Drivers will meet on Thursday of this week to vote on the offer. The union is recommending that they reject and go ahead with the planned 16 January strike day.
Unite branch secretary Tony Rushforth said, “Our members have stuck together and shown Stagecoach we will not be intimidated.
“But we are very short of money. We’ve had donations from GMB, Unison and Napo members in Sheffield. But we need extra—our branch funds have all been spent.”
It is clear that Stagecoach is trying to break the Barnsley strike as a lesson to its drivers across the country.
That is why it is so important that this strike receives financial and political support from across the trade union movement.
Messages of support should be emailed to Barnsley Unite branch secretary Tony Rushforth at firstname.lastname@example.org Cheques should be made payable to Unite, 8-9/9 Barnsley and sent to A Rushforth, 45 Tune Street, Wombwell, Barnsley S73 8PX