Socialist Worker

Strikes rock bus and train services

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2580

Drivers picketing the Rusholme bus depot in Manchester on Monday over pay

Drivers picketing the Rusholme bus depot in Manchester on Monday over pay (Pic: Martin Empson)


Workers at two bus companies in the North West of England struck on Monday, following a coordinated bus and train strike on Wednesday of last week.

Some 2,000 bus drivers and engineers in the Unite and GMB unions on Arriva North West have struck every Monday in October and November.

So have First Manchester drivers in the Unite union at a depot in Rusholme, central Manchester.

Workers in both disputes are fighting for a pay rise in line with inflation and an end to pay differences between depots.

The Rusholme workers voted by 96 percent for strikes. They are being paid £5,000 less than drivers at other depots, according to Unite.

Unite regional officer Neil Clarke said, “For four years First Manchester has repeated that pay will be harmonised, but it has always been jam tomorrow—and now our members are fed up with dry bread and the bosses’ stale words.”

Workers on six rail networks in the RMT union, who are fighting to keep guards on the train, struck alongside Arriva North West workers last Wednesday.

Gridlock

The strike was so strong that roads across north west England were gridlocked and not a single bus left some depots.

Agency staff in the canteen at one of the depots were allegedly told by agency bosses that they had to use their annual leave during strike days.

Driver and Unite member Ged was one of up to 70 pickets at Green Lane Stoneycroft depot in Liverpool from the early hours of the morning.

“Management is offering us pennies in the negotiations,” he said. “Talks are breaking down because they’re not serious offers.

“Loads of unions have been coming to our picket line and showing us solidarity.”

Bus and rail strikes hit back at bosses
Bus and rail strikes hit back at bosses
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The strike had got a lot of support from passengers.

“We feel really sorry for the public, and understand they’ve now got huge problems travelling during the strike,” said Ged.

“But most people are really supportive and understand why we’re doing it.”

Last week was the first time the bus workers have walked out at the same time as train workers.

The RMT members are fighting a long-running dispute against driver only operation (DOO) on six networks around England.

The union say implementing DOO will make travel unsafe and inaccessible.

A South Western Railway guard told Socialist Worker, “We play a huge role in human contact for our customers, like helping wheelchair users onto trains or making sure people feel OK travelling.

“I’ve had to break up fights because people were being homophobic or racist to other passengers.”

Walkout

The walkout last Wednesday involved workers on Southern, Greater Anglia, South Western Railway, Northern, Merseyrail and, the latest addition, Island Line.

Those on Southern, Greater Anglia and South Western also walked out on Thursday.

London Waterloo station worker and RMT branch secretary Ricky Goodman said, “Passengers are so supportive of our action, especially women who understand that guards play an important role in safety.

“We feel really passionate about the job we do and passionate about this strike”.

Unfortunately train drivers in the Aslef union have voted by 79 percent to accept an offer on Southern rail, ending an 18-month dispute.

The deal will give them a 28.5 percent pay rise over five years.

But it is based on an agreement that trains can sometimes run without a second safety-trained staff member.

It says that this won’t happen “except in exceptional circumstances”.

But bosses’ definition of “exceptional” includes such everyday circumstances as workers being ill or trains running late.

The guard said that, despite the Aslef deal, “you can’t put a price on safety.

“The Aslef deal makes us want to fight more, because we’re fighting for our livelihoods too,” they said.

“The exceptional circumstances they talk about happen every single day.”

Escalating the strikes can beat back the transport bosses and the Tories who stand behind them.


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