Socialist Worker

Manchester bus strikes battle bosses whose strike-breaking risks spreading virus

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2745

Picket lines have been strong

Manchester picket lines have been strong (Pic: Unite North West)


Bus strikes in Manchester and London continue to fight hard against bosses' attacks. Management strike-breaking tactics are risking people's health and lives.

Over 400 workers in Manchester, members of the Unite union, began an all-out strike from Sunday. This is in response to plans from bus operating company Go North West to fire and rehire the drivers on worse contracts.

Strikers and their supporters have joined picket lines daily to express their frustration at how key workers are being treated.

Rob Ward, a bus driver for 14 years, told Socialist Worker, the fire and rehire decision was "a surprise".

“We were told in no uncertain times to sign this contract or we would be out the door," he said. "It was a real shock to a lot of people.

“Go North West told the media that the contracts were voluntary, but we had no choice. We would have been fired if we didn't sign.

“It shouldn't have come to this. They could have improved standards and conditions, but they haven't.”

Unionised

Another driver told Socialist Worker he was proud to be in a unionised workplace.

“Diamond bus drivers locally were forced to sign new contracts," he said. "They work 13 hours a day but are paid for nine.

“Because they aren’t unionised they didn't have the support to fight back. We are heading the same way if management get what they want.”

In an effort to beat the strike, Go North West has temporarily outsourced some services. Unite's concern that this would increase overcrowding on buses became a reality on Wednesday morning. 

One photograph shows 44 people crammed into a single-decker bus which should have been limited to just 18 passengers to reduce the threat from coronavirus.

Overcrowded buses are a health risk

Overcrowded buses are a health risk (Pic: Unite North West)


Unite regional secretary Ritchie James said, “The pictures of overcrowded buses are shocking. There is no social distancing and there is a huge risk of Covid being transmitted on these overcrowded buses.

“The safest alternative and the most sensible solution would be for Go North West to cancel its fire and rehire policy.”

Alongside the Manchester strike, 2,200 bus drivers of three subsidiaries of the operating company, RATP in West and South London have extended their strike.

London United drivers will walk out again on Friday, Saturday this week. They face a pay cut of £2,500 a year, with workers expected to work more hours for the lower pay.

Quality Line drivers in Epsom, Surrey will also strike on Friday this week. They are battling against the minuscule pay rise of just 0.5 percent. They are paid £2.50 an hour less than drivers at other RATP subsidiaries.

Drivers for London Sovereign in North West London struck on Wednesday this week over pay and conditions. Edgeware Unite rep and driver, Manoj, told Socialist Worker, “It's been hard working throughout the pandemic. 

“We want to be treated with respect and given what we need. A £2.40 pay increase each week isn’t enough, that’s why we’re here.”

The drivers must continue striking to counter the bosses' attacks and win.

Sign the petition to scrap ‘fire and rehire’ in Manchester here Tweet solidarity to @Unite_NorthWest and #LondonBusStrike 

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