Socialist Worker

Bus manufacturing workers strike in major battle over wages

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2728

Workers at Optare are leading the fight

Workers at Optare are leading the fight (pic- People Before Profit)


Workers at a bus manufacturer near Leeds are fighting against bosses’ “false promises and outright lies” over pay. 

Over 100 Unite union members at the Optare factory were set to strike on Thursday and Friday of this week to demand a pay increase. 

It’s part of a programme of action that has seen two-day walkouts at the end of the last two weeks—and a further 48 hours planned from 5 November. 

Kevin, a Unite member, says there is a “lack of trust” in Optare CEO Graham Belgum over a “broken promise” over pay made in August 2019.

“He said he wouldn’t insult us with a 1 percent pay offer if we gave him a three month grace period to get things on an even keel,” he told Socialist Worker.

“A lot of people, one of them being myself, at the time were going, ‘I don’t really trust the guy’.

“Then he said we had misinterpreted what he said—which just isn’t true.”

Optare is a subsidiary of multinational corporation Ashok Leyland which is owned by Britain’s second richest men, billionaire brothers Srichand, Gopichand and Prakash Hinduja 

Workers’ anger has been fuelled by bosses “wasting money on outsourcing” on jobs that the permanent workforce could do. 

The outsourcing can cause chaos in production.

Kevin described one incident where around 167 pieces of glass had to be removed from vehicles. 

“Recently management was told that it shouldn’t be fitted because it hasn’t got the ‘British Kite Mark’,” he said. “167 pieces had to be taken out because they didn’t have the correct laminate in them,” he explained.

“Look at the waste of money.” 

Kevin added, “We have been poked in the chest too many times without some sort of kickback.

“They want a workforce that will do as they’re told.

“You’re banging your head against a wall. It’s all about brow beating. It’s the condescending way they answer your questions and the way your words are twisted all the time.

“This action is the straw that broke the camel’s back.” 

Every trade unionist, campaigner and socialist should build solidarity for the Optare workers’ fight in their workplaces and union branches. 

A win for the Optare workers would give confidence to other workers fighting the Tories and bosses’ attempts to make working class people pay for the coronavirus crisis.

Support this important strike by donating to the strike fund: The account name is Unite NE/200/1 Optare Branch, account number 20327132 sort code 60-83-01 and the bank is Unity Trust bank. Send messages of support via: [email protected] The next strike days are 29 and 30 October and 5 and 6 November

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