Bus drivers in Barnsley and Rawmarsh staged a town centre demo last Saturday to mark the start of four more days of strikes in their battle over pay.
Some 120 Stagecoach drivers, trade unionists and other supporters marched from Barnsley bus station to a rally in the town’s main shopping area.
Union representatives from Barnsley trade council, Unite, GMB, Unison and NUT spoke at the rally pledging their support and solidarity for the drivers.
Shoppers applauded the drivers as they marched briskly through the town, braving freezing temperatures.
Saturday was the ninth strike day for the Stagecoach drivers. They also struck on Monday of this week, and plan to walk out on Wednesday and Friday too.
Pickets have remained strong and lively. Over 90 drivers picketed Barnsley station on Saturday and over 70 joined the picket on Monday.
The drivers want a pay rise of 26p an hour to bring them up to £9 an hour, backdated to the start of June last year.
The company is refusing to fund the back pay—choosing to spend money on funding scab buses instead.
These are driven by Stagecoach managers shipped in to Barnsley from around the country and put up in hotels overnight.
People in Barnsley are avoiding the scab buses, despite the reduced £1 fares.
“We have regular passengers refusing to catch the scab services,” said Unite branch secretary Tony Rushforth.
Passengers are catching services from other bus operators or even walking in to town, he added. One supporter at the rally said eight people at his bus stop that day had refused to board a Stagecoach service.
The Stagecoach drivers in South Yorkshire are paid significantly less than other bus drivers in the region and other Stagecoach drivers nationally.
Drivers told Socialist Worker how their bus services had been run by Yorkshire Traction until December 2005, when the firm was sold to Stagecoach. Pay has risen by a mere £1.26 an hour since then.
One driver said, “I can see that passenger turnover is up, but the money is going straight to Stagecoach’s profits. We’re not seeing any of it.”
Stagecoach can easily afford to meet the drivers’ claim. The group reported a 52 percent rise in pre-tax profits last year.
But instead it is lashing out against the drivers, refusing to give overtime to strikers.
National and regional Unite union officials pledged financial support for the strikers at the rally. But the drivers still urgently need solidarity from across the union movement.
Bus drivers have started discontinuous action against a below-inflation 1.3 percent pay rise at Rossendale Transport in east Lancashire.
Meanwhile, passengers, bus drivers and anti-cuts campaigners protested on Tuesday of last week against plans to slash rural bus services in Cambridgeshire.
Send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheques should be made payable to TGWU 9/9 Barnsley and sent to A Rushforth, 45 Tune Street, Wombwell, Barnsley S73 8PX