On the Picket Line

Manchester bus drivers strike over longer hours, no raise in pay

By Ögmundur Jónsson
March 22, 2021

MANCHESTER, England — Some 400 bus drivers at Go North West are winning support during their first week on strike, after bosses tried to impose a new contract with longer hours but no pay increase.

Unite, their union, says bosses’ demands would leave workers out of pocket by 2,500 pounds ($3,450) a year. Workers are especially angry over bosses’ threats to fire drivers who refused to sign the new contract.

Mark Porter, Unite union convener at Rolls-Royce in Barnoldswick, brought a 500 pound strike fund donation and gave a brazier (burn barrel) to the Queen’s Road picket line March 5. The brazier displays two messages, “Stop fire and rehire” and “Solidarity from Rolls-Royce Barnoldswick.” Unite members there fought a nine-week strike recently, stopping the company from cutting hundreds of jobs.

Dozens of drivers had showed up for picket line duty when Peter Clifford, Communist League candidate for mayor of Greater Manchester, visited that day. Some were deployed to bus stops across the city, talking to passengers and drivers at other companies about their fight. Go North West has attempted to break the strike by outsourcing routes to smaller bus and coach companies.

Some drivers told Clifford they were angry that Labour Party Mayor Andrew Burnham refused to back the strike and instead pushed for state-organized arbitration.  “The working-class doesn’t have a party of its own,” Clifford said. “Workers and our unions need to build a party of labor.”

Clifford and Hugo Wils, the CL’s candidate for Manchester City Council, talked about the strike with Guilherme Leme, an Amazon delivery driver, at his home in Moston.

“Since the pandemic, Amazon is making us do more deliveries for the same amount of money,” Leme said. “We need to fight for a union too.”

Leme subscribed to the Militant after he saw the coverage of the fight for a union at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse. When Wils met him a week later, Leme said he had stopped by the bus drivers’ picket line to offer solidarity on his way to work.