August 15, 2023
From Socialist Worker (UK)

Manchester bus strikers on the picket line

Manchester bus strikers on the picket line at the Stagecoach Stockport depot (Picture: Twitter/ Unite North West)

Bosses are trying to undermine a major strike by bus workers in Manchester with a massive scabbing operation this week. Some 1,500 workers for Stagecoach Manchester and First Manchester are ready to join forces to win better pay by bring the city’s transport to a halt for nine days.

A Stagecoach strike has already badly hit bus services. But on Monday, ­Stagecoach bosses organised scab workers—reportedly from London—to go through picket lines in a bid to cover the strikers’ work.

Socialist Worker supporter Martin Empson reported from the picket line that strikers were furious. “They shouted ‘traitor’ at the scab driver that drove them into the depot”. But, he added, “The ­pickets should be blocking the buses in the depots. They have massive public support, and this action would put the squeeze on the managers.”

Stagecoach workers have rejected the firm’s latest pay offer of 14.3 percent, which would take the hourly rate to £16.Bosses wanted to implement the new pay scheme from September, rather than backdate it to June—when their new pay year was ­supposed to start.

Around 360 drivers at First Manchester rejected a 7.4 percent offer backdated to April. This offer included a further 3.4 percent in ­October and another small rise in January next year.

Both groups of Unite union members plan to bring the city to a standstill on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of next week and Monday 28 August, which is a bank ­holiday. And they are set to strike again from 4 to 8 September. Bus workers have already struck for 13 days in July and five days in August.

“The picket at Hyde Road showed the potential to stop greedy bosses. Some 80 drivers, black and white, united to demand higher pay,” said Martin. “They are on £14 an hour while Stagecoach made £73 million last year.” The united strike can hit the bosses hard. Strikers must now be ready to call more, hard-hitting action to ensure they win and stop scabbing.

  • Bus workers at First South in the Solent area are set to strike for four days over the August bank holiday, beginning on Friday of next week to Tuesday 29 August. Many drivers there get just £12 an hour, with the lowest earners on just £11.03.

The 185 Unite union members will halt bus routes in Portsmouth, Southampton, Cosham, Fareham, Gosport and Paulsgrove. Meanwhile bus drivers in west London are voting on whether to strike against bosses at RATP. The drivers include Unite members at Westbourne Park garage and engineers at ten garages.

The 500 workers are voting until Monday 11 September after rejecting various pay offers between 5 and 6.4 percent. The addition of controllers and engineers to the dispute means no buses will be able to operate across the garages.

These offers won’t fly

Refuelling tanker drivers and operators employed by Menzies at Birmingham airport were set to begin an all-out strike on Tuesday of this week. The Unite union members fuel 75 percent of the airport’s planes.

Menzies is contracted by Shell to run the refuelling, but offered its workers a below-inflation pay rise last year and this year. And Unite members at Gatwick airport in south London are set to strike for eight days over August bank holiday weekend.

The 230 workers employed by Red Handling—a ground handling company—and Wilson James who operated passenger assistance. Both firms made below‑inflation pay offers. Red Handling workers plan to walk out from Friday of this week until Monday of next week, and from Friday of next week until Monday 28 August.

Workers at Wilson James plan to strike for three days from this Friday, and from Tuesday of next week until the following Thursday. Unite members at Vanderlande Industries at Heathrow airport in west London are voting on whether to strike.

The 170 workers conduct high-end maintenance and servicing of baggage carousels. Strikers will vote until 1 September. Bosses offered both 2.5 and 5 percent pay offers, which workers rejected.