AN INDEFINITE strike by bus drivers was set to begin in the Edinburgh region this week. Over 1,300 drivers are facing a hostile management that is determined to defeat the workforce.
As Socialist Worker went to press drivers were considering a final pay offer. But it was expected to be rejected. The drivers have twice thrown out pay offers which were recommended by their own union leaders. The first-a 5 percent rise with strings - was chucked out and 78 percent of drivers voted for a strike. The strike was due to begin last week, but it was postponed because union officials said a better offer had been received.
This was also totally unacceptable, a two-year deal said to be worth 13 percent but which was linked to many new conditions. One driver told Socialist Worker, 'It feels like we are being squeezed by management and the union heads at the same time. But we are determined to do our own bit of squeezing to get some more money.
'Our bosses say we get £18,000 a year. But to get that you'd have to work loads of overtime. The basic pay is £280 a week before tax and stoppages. I take home about £200 a week. I'd like to see if the suits at the top would work for that money - especially as we have to put up with things like difficult hours, working late and attacks on drivers.'
The company said it was going to use security guards to 'protect against any overexuberance by drivers during the forthcoming strike'. The real reason is that drivers are outraged and militant.
A driver told newspapers, 'No drivers I know would ever vandalise buses or equipment, but there have been times when it looks like they might have a go at the management. There have already been quite heated moments in some depots. The drivers feel that they are being treated with contempt.'
The Lothian bus company is 92 percent owned by Labour-controlled Edinburgh City Council. It is a political decision to take on the drivers. The company's chief executive is Neil Renilson who was brought in from Brian Souter's private operation Stagecoach.