CONFUSION AND bitterness spread through the ranks of 1,300 bus drivers in the Edinburgh region on Friday of last week. The drivers, who work for the Lothian bus company, were set to begin an all-out strike that day against a new pay deal. Their TGWU union leaders called the strike off at the last minute on Thursday evening after they received a new offer from management.
The union is recommending the drivers accept the new deal, but many drivers were angry with the union's stance. 'The strike shouldn't have been called off today,' said one driver at the Annandale bus garage in Edinburgh.
This was the second time union officials had called off strike action. Drivers have twice thrown out pay offers recommended by the union. Some 78 percent of drivers voted for a strike after rejecting a pay deal worth 5 percent. Some 94 percent of drivers rejected the second deal, worth 13 percent over two years.
This deal was tied to changes in working conditions bringing in longer hours and a reduction in overtime. Many drivers only get by through working overtime. Drivers are demanding a 12 percent pay rise without any conditions. The new deal offers a 10 percent increase over two years. The drivers' threat to strike has forced management to withdraw the new working conditions.
Drivers spoke of their dissatisfaction with the union for calling the strike off, and with the deal on the table. 'We're a militant lot,' a driver at the Longstone garage told Socialist Worker. 'People don't like the deal. We know what we want - 12 percent this year. Next year's different. We want a better quality of life.'
Despite the strike being called off there was still a big effect on Edinburgh's traffic with the streets much quieter than usual. The Lothian bus company is run by Labour-controlled Edinburgh City Council. The new deal was put to drivers on Tuesday of this week. The result of the ballot was not known as Socialist Worker went to press.