Socialist Worker

Bus and train strikes scare the fat cat transport bosses

by Steve Johnston, Raymie Kiernan and Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2509

Striking Southern Rail workers picketing in Brighton on Tuesday were joined by delegates from the Unison union conference

Striking Southern Rail workers picketing in Brighton on Tuesday were joined by delegates from the Unison union conference (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Four strikes hit public transport around Britain this week as workers lose patience with management attempts to squeeze their pay and conditions.

Bus workers in the Unite union struck over pay in Weymouth and Leeds on Monday.

Then train guards in the RMT union struck on Southern and on Scotrail on Tuesday. They are fighting bosses’ attempts to make drivers run trains without guards.

The streets of Leeds were almost empty of buses as workers on First buses struck.

Strikers were out in force on the picket lines—the Hunslet depot had 60 on one gate and 20 on another.

It was their second strike after bosses refused the union’s pay claim.

Unite member Mark told Socialist Worker, “For me it would have meant an extra 36p an hour.

“We thought they’d agree to it—it’s only 1 percent, and they gave a 5 percent rise to management. And at the end of the day, we’re the ones who are bringing the money in.”

First reported £56 million profit last year—a third of it coming from Leeds.

Mark said, “The majority of passengers support us. People tell us when they get on the bus they think the company is out of order.”

On the picket line, one Polish worker brought a flag of the Solidarnosc union that his father had flown during the immense Gdansk shipyard strike in 1981.

Honked

Workers shouted, gesticulated and honked airhorns at scabs, mostly managers brought in to break the strike at the top rate of pay plus a £50 bonus.

Similar issues lay behind a five-day walkout at First Dorset buses in Weymouth that began on Monday.

Workers there say they are the “poor relations”—paid less than colleagues in nearby Southampton.

Disputes could be looming at other First franchises. Mark said, “There’s quite a sense of grievance against the company.”

Scotrail workers walked out across Scotland on Tuesday. RMT union regional organiser Martin Gordon told Socialist Worker, “The strike is solid, with picket lines from Dumfries in the south to Aberdeen and Inverness in the north.

“The picket lines are very confident and upbeat—workers are angry and they want to communicate that to the bosses. The company is painting this as a dispute just about pushing buttons to open and close doors, but that’s a complete distortion of guards’ role.”

The same move towards so-called driver-only operation (DOO) drove the strike at Southern rail.

On the picket line in Brighton, train guard and RMT rep Simon explained, “We don’t just close the doors. Everything we do is focussed around maintaining safety on the train at all times.”

Cutting their role affects passengers. Southern now only provides assistance to disabled passengers if they give advance notice.

Simon said, “There was a guy I picked up the other day who is really worried about this. He doesn’t know what he’ll be able to do if he has to visit his sick mother.”

Drivers in the Aslef union want to strike too, but bosses have won an injunction to stop them.

Aslef is in court on Monday of next week for a full injunction hearing. Bosses are desperate to avoid a second front opening while they attack the guards.

Simon said, “If the drivers can get out on strike then the company is in trouble.”

Many people are sick of overpriced, unreliable and crowded transport, and strikes against bus and rail bosses can win support.

Delegates at the Unison union conference and the Unison and RMT general secretaries joined the picket line in Brighton.

The Scotrail guards planned to strike again on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Gordon encouraged supporters to visit picket lines and pick up union postcards to send to the company.

Simon said, “The public are backing us. Last week’s protest in the station here was really good.

“People just want to have a proper railway that’s safe, runs on time and doesn’t cost the earth.”


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.