Socialist Worker

Fire and rehire defeated at Go North West, but at what price?

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2755

Pickets were well-supported

Pickets were supported strongly (Pic: Unite North West)


After 85 days of an all-out strike, 400 Manchester bus drivers employed by Go North West have beaten back bosses' plans to fire and rehire the workforce. But the company has still pushed through serious attacks on the workforce.

Strikers should be proud of their determined struggle, far better than buckling to bosses’ blackmail.

Go North West planned to save £1.8 million as part of a “turnaround plan” for the Queens Road depot.

Bosses demanded drivers accept new contracts to work longer hours on the same pay—or face the sack.

The overall effect would have been drivers losing wages of up to £2,500 a year.

They also dangerously tried to implement a 10 percent cut in the number of drivers and reduced sick pay during the pandemic.

Workers launched an indefinite strike on 28 February and held regular pickets that won support from workers in the city.

Following negotiations between Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey and Go North West bosses a deal was presented to a mass meeting of workers at the Queens Road depot this week. It was accepted in a ballot.

Victory

Unite has hailed the result as a “huge victory” and certainly strikers have blunted many of the bosses’ assaults. Fire and rehire won’t be used again.

Two sacked workers have been reinstated and bosses dropped disciplinary cases against another 37 workers. Most of the attacks on sick pay have been removed.

Some other attacks have gone.

But at the same time, Unite accepted large concessions. These include meal breaks becoming unpaid and compulsory overtime if a bus runs late.

And longer shifts mean bosses will cut jobs.

But this is no surprise because Unite offered its own £1.3 million cuts package as an alternative to fire and rehire before the strikes began.

Escalate bus fightbacks in Manchester and London
Escalate bus fightbacks in Manchester and London
  Read More

How could more have been won?

Unite could have tried to spread disputes to other Go North West garages.

It could have tried to picket out the depots where scab operators were running services on the strikers’ routes.

Instead it kept the strikes narrowly focused on the depot.

Unite has pledged to try to win back the concessions, but that will take more struggle.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said, “This is a tremendous victory by Unite’s members at Go North West who through their dedication, solidarity and commitment have defeated the attempt to fire and rehire them.” 

Sharon Graham, a candidate in the Unite general secretary elections, said, “Congratulations to all our members at Go North West. I was very privileged to stand beside you with leverage and help push Go North West back. Thank you for your endorsement for me to be Unite’s next general secretary.”

Strikes are the best way to win against fire and rehire. But the outcome should not be negotiated cuts.


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