Socialist Worker

Thousands of bus drivers strike across north west

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2582

Unite union members on strike at a First Manchester bus depot

Unite union members on strike at a First Manchester bus depot (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Thousands of bus workers in the north west of England took their pay strikes up a gear with a strike on Monday.

The strike meant drivers and engineers at 11 Arriva North West bus depots have walked out for seven days over six weeks.

They’re fighting for a pay rise in line with inflation and an end to pay disparity between depots.

Members of the Unite and GMB unions voted to reject the bosses' outrageous “final offer” of an additional 1p an hour.

And they are set to strike on Monday and Thursday next week, from 12 to 14 December and again from 20 and 23 December.

A Unite member who works in a Manchester depot told Socialist Worker that a deal is overdue. “We shouldn’t be negotiating in November for a pay deal that was due in April, the bosses are offering us 1p, but people just find that insulting,” they said.

Bosses resorted to leaning on workers to swap their rest days, meaning that some services were running from some depots.

Additionally Unite members at the First Manchester bus depot in Rusholme walked out for pay in line with drivers at other depots. 

Workers have struck every Monday in October and November, but have escalated the action to three days this week.

Drivers at nearby Queen’s Road depot run some of the same bus routes—but drivers there are paid an extra £4,500 a year.

Disparity

Robert, a driver at the depot in Rusholme, said pay disparity was “disgraceful.”

“The company should be ashamed of themselves, they make millions in profit and all we want is to be treated fairly.”

The depot sits on a main road to central Manchester—and drivers there say it’s one of the busiest bus routes in Europe.

Dave has been a bus driver for 25 years and has never struck out before. He said the dispute was about dignity.

“It’s not about the ­extra 20p or 40p more an hour, it’s about parity—and they always find the money when they want bigger depots,” he said.

“When I started as a bus driver people would use overtime to get luxuries, like a holiday, but now people rely on overtime just to get by.”

Management have resorted to bullying tactics to try and break the strike—including laying on a daily buffet for scabs, filming pickets and implementing an overtime ban for strikers.

And the strike is clearly hitting the bosses in the pocket—they had to recruit managers from far afield as Weymouth, Devon, Anglia and Bristol. Even then only services were running half as regularly as normal.

But the strikers remained upbeat in the face of bullying management and intransigent bosses.

Driver Robert said, “The camaraderie here is amazing. This strike means for the first time we’ve got real friendship, and the trust grows stronger every day.”­


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