By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2882

Stop the scabs in Go North East bus battle + Klarius sick pay fight + Kirkless protest

Plus news from the long-running Klarius strike
Issue 2882
Three Go North East strikers in yellow hi-vis vests with a large red Unite flag

Go North East strikers are determined to win (Picture: Unite North East)

Strikes at Go North East are continuing indefinitely. Over 1,300 bus drivers in and around Newcastle are in their fourth week of all-out strike, and their sixth of action.

The drivers, who are members of the Unite union, want a 13 percent pay increase so that their pay is in-line with Go North West bus drivers in Manchester.

Talks last Tuesday again ended in “a stalemate” after Go North East refused to increase its pay offer.

Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Go North East’s utter unwillingness to improve its pay offer in the slightest shows its blatant disregard for the wellbeing of its workers and the communities they serve.

“Go North East could end the strikes with a stroke of a pen by utilising the merest fraction of its profits but it is choosing not to do so.”

City Transport Group is running a scab service. Go North East has also been continuing to run school and some contracted routes. But it now also intends to restore a skeleton service on “as many routes as possible”.

“These duties are being covered by office workers and managers with bus driving licences, as well as regular drivers who have opted to return to work,” Go North East said.

Graham said the company is “grasping at straws”.

But it’s important that mass pickets close down the scabs used by Go North East and any other operators.

  • Bus drivers employed by Centrebus in Luton are set to strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week over pay. The drivers, members of the Unite union, are paid £1.91 less than drivers in the city working for Arriva.
  • Around 150 First Bus engineers in Glasgow have voted on a deal by 92 percent. Unite says their hourly wage will increase by a minimum of 17.6 percent by April 2024.

Some 1,200 drivers for the same two companies are set to strike on Friday of this week until 1 December over pay.

  • Southampton bus drivers could strike over pay. GMB union members have rejected Unilink bosses’ offer of a below-inflation 5.28 percent rise.

Klarius workers say the firm makes them sick

Workers at Klarius Products in Stoke-on-Trent are striking every weekday until 1 December.

The Unite union members are battling over sick pay and other issues.

The workers began a series of strikes in September in response to the company’s threats to fire and rehire them in order to drastically reduce sick pay.

The company has a two-tier workforce. Workers on the traditional contracts have a company sick pay scheme, while workers on the inferior, newer contracts only receive statutory sick pay (SSP).

Klarius’ solution is to introduce a new sick pay scheme, but it would result in many workers experiencing sizeable cuts in their entitlement.

The workers have since rejected an offer from the company that would have seen their sick pay reduced over three years to just two weeks from five.

One long-standing worker who did not want to be named for fear of retribution told local media, “This is the first strike at Klarius.

“The situation is not fair, especially at a time when people are struggling financially.”

Another long-standing worker, Phillip Emery, added, “They have basically abused the most loyal people who have worked there. They call it levelling up but it’s levelling us down.”

The company produces parts and spares of car emission equipment.

Fighting the cuts in Kirklees

Over 200 activists, mainly from North Kirklees, marched from Batley to Dewsbury to protest against a programme of cuts and closures planned by Labour-run Kirklees council in West Yorkshire. 

The council faces a deficit of £47 million and has responded by attacking the services that ate crucial for the very people who elected it.

The council wants to shut care homes, leisure centres and swimming pools as well as closing and selling off buildings, including some iconic ones, such as Batley Library.

The march, led by a drumming band, was angry, lively, loud and colourful, with plenty of homemade placards.  The chants sent a clear message to the council—“Kirklees Council, shame on you, Shame on you for turning blue.”

At the final rally in Dewsbury, there were speakers from many of the affected services including Dewsbury Sports Centre, Deighton Sports Centre, Colne Valley swimming pool, Batley Library and Andy Man’s Club—a very successful mental health charity based in Batley Library.

Some of the most moving speakers had relatives living in the care homes earmarked for closure. 

These are the last two homes run by the authority and specialise in people suffering from dementia.  The closures will have a devastating effect on the residents and their families.

All the speakers were very clear about the harm the cuts will cause, especially on top of the cost of living crisis.  There was criticism of both the Tory government and the Labour council. 

A couple of opportunistic Tory councillors turned up at the rally, but were not allowed to speak.

The mood was determined and clear that his is only the start.  The council must find another way.

Martin Jones

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