Socialist Worker

Striking bus drivers in London and Manchester demand end to fire and rehire

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2751

Strikers and supporters at the Park Royal depot in west London

Strikers and supporters at the Park Royal depot in west London


London United bus drivers have escalated their fight against bosses' attacks on pay and conditions.

Unite union members at bus garages in Stamford Brook and Hounslow Heath in west London took to picket lines on Thursday. They joined workers at five other London United Garages, who have held a series of strikes since 22 February.

Wasiq Ali, a driver at Stamford Brook, told Socialist Worker, “Strikes should carry on until bosses learn the hard way.

“One day strikes aren’t enough.”

Another driver added, “We want to escalate the strike as far as possible—until we win. We need an all-out indefinite strike.”

Workers are also angry about bosses’ disregard for health and safety during coronavirus. Bus driver Andrew told Socialist Worker, “Over 50 drivers have died of Covid and loads are still off work, still infected or with long Covid.”

But the fight for better conditions has been highlighted by overwhelming vote for strikes by 4,000 bus drivers at operator Metroline. Unite union members oppose plans to introduce a remote sign-on system over fears it's unsafe.

The new system would see drivers start at various bus stops rather than signing in at a garage. Many fear it's unsafe because there will be no health checks to ensure the driver is well before starting work.

Canteens 

Drivers also fear they will have to drive for longer periods and lose access to toilets and canteens.

Meanwhile, 400 bus drivers at Go North West in Manchester have been on an all-out strike against fire and rehire since 28 February.

Unite activists in Manchester and London delivered messages to each city hall calling mayors Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham to outlaw fire and rehire. Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said they’re calling on them to “publicly back a declaration which bars employers who use fire and rehire from bidding for future contracts”.

“Warm words in support of the bus drivers in Manchester who are under attack are simply not enough and workers in London could be next,” she said.

“It’s time to act.”

Unite has announced further strikes for Friday 23 April, Monday 26 April and Friday 7 May.

Escalating strikes and solidarity form across the trade union movement have the power to beat back the bosses’ attacks.


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