Over 400 bus drivers in Manchester began an all-out strike on Sunday.
The Unite union members are fighting against Go North West bosses’ plans to fire and rehire them on inferior contracts.
Over 100 people joined a lively picket line on the first day of the strike. Other trade unionists and campaigners, including a group of local NHS workers, showed their solidarity with chants, horns and whistles.
Bosses’ proposals would slash 10 percent of the workforce and leave drivers £2,500 worse off each year.
Neil Clark, Unite regional officer, said bosses are pushing fire and rehire because the “credibility behind the rationale for the changes has been totally dismantled during the negotiations”.
“That's why management has withdrawn from the negotiations,” he told Socialist Worker. “This is about a power grab to control the destiny of the drivers, making them work flexibly to suit the company.
“They want to diminish the driver's conditions including sick pay, in the second worst industry for Covid-19 infections.These are key workers who have been out on the front line, working for their communities.
“Their reward is fire and rehire. It’s the most awful act of industrial violence that I've ever seen.”
The bosses’ plan would also destroy the existing sick pay policy, forcing drivers to work when they should be self-isolating.
Driver Andew Esi told Socialist Worker, “Management were reasonably quick to install protective shields for drivers.
“But one driver died early of Covid-19 in March last year.”
The strike will continue to disrupt 30 Go North West services across Greater Manchester and Cheshire.
Workers voted by 82 percent to strike on a 77 percent turnout.
Unite regional secretary Ritchie James said, “This underlines the anger of our members. They are being forced by Go North West to choose between their jobs and huge cuts in their pay and conditions.”
He slammed bosses “cynically trying to use the Covid-19 pandemic as cover to hire and rehire workers and slashing their pay and conditions”.
This strike comes a week after drivers in south and west London walked out over pay and conditions.
Their strike is set to on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of this week.
The strength and determination of the bus drivers is an inspiration to all workers fighting against bosses’ attempts to make them pay for coronavirus crisis. There must be no going back until the bus companies have withdrawn all their attacks.