THREE DISPUTES over pay on the buses have come along at once.
The disputes show the growing willingness for bus workers to take action that has marked the last few years.
It also shows the potential for workers doing the same job across different companies to link up their battles, and ensure pay and conditions are levelled up.
Around 1,500 workers employed by First Group in South Yorkshire began an indefinite strike at midnight on Monday.
At the biggest depot in Sheffield, Olive Grove, there were 50 pickets—ensuring that not one of the 307 buses left.
These workers stunned the company with seven days of solid strike action in June last year over pay.
That dispute forced First Group to improve its “final” offer.
This year the workers, members of the TGWU union, voted by 878 votes to 64 to strike again over pay.
They want to know why their top rate is £7.53 an hour compared to the £8.50 an hour average rate that other drivers across Yorkshire get.
The threat of a strike by workers employed on Metrobus, owned by Go Ahead, on the south coast forced their bosses to increase their offer.
The workers in Crawley, Orpington and Godstone were due to begin a series of one-day strikes on Friday of this week.
“But the company came up with an increased offer. I think they were pretty damn scared,” said one Metrobus worker. “We’d had a strike meeting of 35 people to discuss the action.
“One had said that although he voted against a strike the majority were in favour and he’d be on the picket line.
“The new deal is around 8 percent, which sounded good at first. But it looks like they are sugaring the pill of the overtime we’ll be losing.
“So some of us will be arguing to reject the offer.”
Some 2,500 drivers working for Arriva North West are also shaping up for a battle over pay.
The area includes Merseyside, Manchester city centre, Skelmersdale and Runcorn.
“These pay negotiations link 14 garages, so we’ll have some clout. In the past they’ve tried to pick us off one by one,” said one Arriva driver.
“They want a three-year deal— but we don’t know what type of government we’ll have in by then.
“We’ve had two votes—one against the deal and one for permission to go for a strike ballot. They were both overwhelming.
“The TGWU are out of touch with the rank and file. They advised us to accept the three-year deal.
“But now we are preparing for the actual strike ballot next month.”