Manchester saw a strong display of unity on Friday as over 150 workers from three separate disputes joined up on a day when they were all on strike.
Mears housing workers, First bus drivers, and IT workers from Fujitsu marched from Piccadilly Gardens to the Mechanics Institute for a strike rally.
Dismissed Fujitsu worker Ian Allinson described the rally as “Inspiring. This is what trade unionism is about, we back each other up. That’s how we’re going to win.
Fujitsu workers took three days of action this week, with more strikes planned for next Tuesday and 8 - 14 February. Up to 30 workers picketed Fujitsu this week, where they are fighting compulsory redundancies.
Ian said they would use their eight days of consecutive strikes to “Organise solidarity, go round workplaces and raise support and awareness of our dispute.
Billy Sinclair, shop steward for Mears workers told Socialist Worker “We’re not taking one step back, we’re stronger now than we’ve ever been and we’re going to get Mears out of Manchester.
Mears workers are striking every day of the week apart from Wednesday. Their official strike dates end next week, but that’s unlikely to be the end of the dispute.
Mears bosses recently offered a pay rise, but workers turned it down because it meant extra hours.
Unite union members at the First Bus depot in Rusholme were on strike for three days this week. They are paid up to £4,500 a year less than drivers at others First Bus depots, including one just a few miles down the road.
They’re in their 17th week of strikes, and are now walking out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on alternate weeks.
Driver Mike said, “We could escalate up to five days a week if that’s what the members vote for.”
Some four months into the dispute most drivers are still out on strike, although some scabs are driving buses.
Drivers are currently paid £9.05 an hour, and they are fighting for £10.50 and a written guarantee their pay would at some point be harmonised with drivers in other depots.
Low pay means that drivers rely on regular overtime and work up to 13 consecutive days with only one rest day.
Drivers say there has been solid support from passengers and some sections of the Labour Party, but local MPs in Wythenshawe and Withington “couldn’t get off their backside and come and visit us for 20 minutes.”
The strikers are determined to win, but feel that more could be done at a national level to help them. Robert said “Unite leader Len McCluskey’s not been down here, we’ve got our regional officer coming down but no one else.”
Howard echoed his frustration explaining “We’ve done everything we can to raise the profile of this dispute. We need to get it to the next level, it’s out of our hands.
“We believe Unite could do more.”