Socialist Worker

Bus pickets shock bosses

by Penny Howard
Issue No. 1980

On the picket line against First Group (Pic: courtesy Press and Journal)

On the picket line against First Group (Pic: courtesy Press and Journal)

There were no city buses in Aberdeen last weekend as T&G union members struck for 48 hours and joined mass picket lines from 4am on Saturday morning.

Between 30 and 200 workers were in front of the gates of the bus depot at any time, and the gates were also blocked with vehicles.

The 420 drivers had previously voted 96 percent in favour of strikes.

The last bus strike in Aberdeen was a one-day stoppage in 1982, long before the service was privatised and sold to First Group International.

Drivers are angry about an April wage increase that has not yet come through, the existing three-tiered pension scheme, a proposed cap on the employer’s contribution to pensions, and a proposal to cut their breaks.

Employers First Aberdeen made a last attempt to avert the strike on Friday by making an offer that proposed “productivity gains” apply only to new starters and not the existing workforce.

Managing director George Mair was “shocked and bamboozled” that three mass meetings firmly rejected his deal to sell out future generations on the day before the strike was set to start.

First Aberdeen lost four times more money in bus fares on the busy shopping weekend than it would have cost them to meet the T&G’s wage demands.

On Saturday bosses were covertly trying to photograph drivers on the picket line, and also called the police several times. However, these petty actions only made drivers angrier and did not succeed in intimidating them.

Unity was strong, with drivers originally from India, Poland, North Africa, and all over Britain participating, and whose years of service ranged from one to 25 years.

Drivers were particularly aware of the general assault on pensions being led by New Labour, and called for united action across unions to block any attempt to raise the pension age.

The erosion of their own pension scheme is a perfect example of the danger of any concessions.

Older drivers have a good pension from the local authority days, many drivers are part of a less beneficial private scheme, and the newest drivers have to work for between two and three years before they are even eligible for the private pension.

The strike is set to continue for the next four weekends.

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Article information

Sat 10 Dec 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1980
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