Socialist Worker

First Bus on strike

by Stewart Crehan
Issue No. 1973

The second 24-hour strike by drivers of First Bus in North Staffs and South Cheshire took place on Friday of last week. Just over 300 drivers took part in a strike that was again 100 percent solid.

The bosses “did not listen to us,” said Neil Salter, T&G union regional organiser. The union had no choice but to “fight on” until they won their demands against “robber barons”.

The bus drivers are not asking for high wages, he added, they are just fighting against low wages.

The drivers earn £6.60 an hour and are asking for £7 — an increase of just 40p. But the main issue, said one of the drivers, is an attack on pensions.

In addition bosses are introducing penalties and other measures whereby drivers are blackmailed into selling their rights and conditions. In total these reductions would mean a wage cut of £2,000 a year.

Drivers for First Bus work five and a half hours without a break. Many work a ten-hour day.

Add to this the stress of frequent traffic jams, rude passengers and pay and conditions that are, according to one driver who has been on the buses for 40 years, “worse than they were in the 1970s”.

He added, “In those days if the union said a bus was unfit the driver and the conductor would be off it in minutes.”

Polish drivers arrived a few months ago and some employers in the area are trying to create tensions between Polish and local workers in order to drive down wages and conditions.

But attempts to drive a wedge between cheap, non-unionised migrant labour and local labour have got nowhere, said one T&G steward, “The Polish drivers were recruited into the union as soon as they started training. So there’s no way anyone can claim our Polish drivers are responsible for low wages.

“It’s the bosses in their flash cars who are responsible. In this strike we’re all together.”

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Sat 22 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1973
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