BUS DRIVERS working for First Group in Bristol have won their dispute after management conceded to all their demands. The dispute had arisen after management introduced 'mystery shoppers', plainclothes inspectors, onto the buses to entrap drivers. At a mass meeting drivers gave management 48 hours to withdraw the mystery shoppers or they would ballot for a strike.
'The union came in and pinned a notice on the board saying that management have conceded both our demands,' one driver told Socialist Worker. 'The management has agreed to withdraw the 'mystery shoppers', and only uniformed inspectors will be used.'
The new system led to four drivers being sacked, with others suspended. The plainclothes inspectors either entrapped drivers directly or watched until somebody underpaid, didn't take a ticket or avoided paying. These are all common in busy periods.
The bosses were then combining workers' disciplinary records with their sick records to justify sacking people. They have agreed to stop this. First Bristol buses are part of First Group, one of the major players in the privatised transport sector.
It made profits of £156.7 million last year, up 5 percent on the previous year. These profits have been gained by the company paying drivers low wages for long hours. The bus drivers take the flak from the customers for what is an expensive and inefficient bus service.
'It may sound daft given that we've won but many drivers really wanted to go on strike and have a go at the company,' said the driver. 'We're a bit disappointed. Drivers are going round looking for random things to strike over. The fight with First Group is not over.'
BUS DRIVERS in West Midlands Travel were set to show their solidarity with striking US bus workers who work for the same company. National Express owns Travel West Midlands and Durham School Services in St Louis, Missouri.
Some 140 school bus drivers in St Louis walked out over pay and benefits on Monday of this week. Drivers in the West Midlands were due to wear stickers saying 'National Express: get moving in St Louis,' to show their bosses they are supporting the strike.