After more than six weeks of pay strikes bus drivers in Weymouth, Dorset, were set for talks with bosses as Socialist Worker went to press.
Strikers are furious that managers have written to several workers, who are on sick leave, threatening to remove their sick pay.
One of these was Mac Patterson, who received his letter on his first day after a 17-day hospital stay to remove cancerous lymph nodes.
One driver told Socialist Worker, “The feeling among workers is really strong and the recent threats only made people angrier.
“It might be acceptable legally but it’s not acceptable morally.”
He accused bosses of being “petty”. They have also forced workers to stop paying their union subs as part of “check off” from their weekly wage.
Instead they must go to monthly direct debit, which the low-paid workers fear could leave them short of cash.
But the strike is unbroken. The driver continued, “They say they are running 90 percent of services but we know that’s not true.
“They’re having to pay drivers to come from other depots on £23 an hour for a guaranteed 13 hours a day even if they don’t end up driving that long.
“They give them three meals a day and put them up in top hotels. So they’re having to spend a lot of money they could have just given us.”
The Unite union members are the poorest paid in First Group.
Bosses claim that strikers are returning to work, but pickets report the reverse.
One member of the RMT union, a minority in the workforce, joined Unite to take part in the strike.
Workers are considering a second ballot to allow them to continue striking after the 12-week deadline covered by the current ballot.
Some £10,000 in solidarity donations has made them feel stronger. The driver said, “It has been massive, with donations coming in from everywhere.
“It means that when people need the money—and we’re so low paid most do—they can top up the strike pay and hardship fund from the union.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn personally gave strikers £10 when they met him at the Tolpuddle Festival this month. “That was really nice of him—he’s 100 percent on our side,” said the driver.
Workers need support in their battle against low-paying bosses.
Thanks to Tim Nicholls
The Unite union called off a planned all-out strike by bus workers at First’s Leeds operation. It was set to begin on Tuesday.
Unite said it would ballot workers on a “much improved” pay offer.
A ballot ends on 11 August. Details of the deal were unclear as Socialist Worker went to press.
But Unite regional officer Phil Bown believes it “offers an excellent opportunity to resolve the dispute”.
However, the union branch secretary has been dismissed and this remains unresolved.
Unite said it was waiting for an appeal hearing.
There should be no resolution of the dispute until a decent pay deal is achieved and everyone, including the branch secretary, is fully reinstated.