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Transport round-up: Manchester bus strike could be first of many

Bus workers in Manchester strike over pay, rail workers at train operating companies prepare for more action
Issue 2860
Bus workers on the picket line, they wave Unite union flags

Bus workers standing firm on the picket line (Picture: Unite North West)

Bus workers in Greater Manchester began strikes on Monday and Tuesday of this week and plan further walk outs on Friday—and Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of next week.

The First Manchester action follows a rejection of a poor offer that had strings attached. If accepted the workers would have had half the pay rise in April and half in October.

The offer would have brought pay in line with other local bus companies, but it would have soon fallen behind as other bus operators implement their yearly pay increases.

The Unite union says the offer has increased ­resentment among ­workers who were already angry at being paid nearly a pound an hour less than bus drivers at other local companies. This has led to staff ­shortages and increased pressures and workload.

Bosses can afford to put forward a decent pay offer as their operating profits increased by more than £6 million to £226.8 million in 2022.

Bus workers in Berkshire at Newbury and District Bus Company plan to strike for seven days including Thursday and Friday. The workers have not received a pay rise for four years.

The affected drivers are paid just £12.55 an hour, rising to £13.22 for ­working weekends. Other drivers receive £13 an hour and £15.50 for weekend work.

The company says workers will only receive a pay increase if they accept inferior contracts that will reduce their sick pay.

Strikes by Arriva bus workers in north London are set for Tuesday and Wednesday of next week after workers rejected a 7.5 percent pay deal after suspending strikes.

Pay talks at the end of last month resulted in ­management walking out after making poor offer.

Workers see the pay fight as a much broader fight against bosses’ inaction to fix overly warm buses, and refusing to bring in new toilet facilities. Strikes set for Wednesday and Thursday were suspended by Unite for talks to take place.

A significant section of workers are demanding that future strikes are coordinated with RMT union train strikes.

And indefinite strikes by Xplore bus workers in Dundee have ended as 84 percent voted to accept an improved offer, greater than 7 percent—that they previously rejected.

Overtime ban bites and strikes are on rail timetable

Train drivers employed by 16 operating companies were refusing to work overtime until Sunday as Aslef union members fight for fair pay.

The action will be followed by a planned three day strike by rail workers in the RMT on 20, 22 and 29 July at 14 train operating companies.

The ongoing rail fight—that began in June, last year—follows a five-day wave of strikes across May and early June.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan says, “Sadly, it is clear from the actions of both the train operating companies and the government that they do not want an end to the dispute.

“Their goals appear to be to continue industrial strife and to do down our industry.”

And RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, “Neither party (government or train operating companies) has made any attempt whatsoever to arrange any meetings or put forward a decent offer that can help us reach a negotiated solution.

“The government continues to shackle the companies and will not allow them to put forward a package that can settle this dispute.”

Members of the RMT have voted three times to renew their six month strike mandate.

When they rejoin picket lines and attend union meetings, they must question how to break the stalemate and drive the fight forward.

Escalating strikes can create a crisis in the boardrooms and government offices that the enemy cannot ignore.

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