On the Picket Line

Manchester bus drivers strike solid after three weeks

By Ögmundur Jónsson
April 5, 2021

MANCHESTER, England — Three weeks in, the strike by 400 drivers at Go North West is going strong and winning solidarity. Dozens of Unite members show up for picket duty, lining union flags along the busy Queens Road. The drivers walked out Feb. 28 to fight a company move to impose longer working hours with no increase in pay.

“An Asian family that lives nearby brings curries they’ve cooked for us every other day,” Paul Jenkins, a Unite shop steward, told the Militant. “Another family has brought cakes. Nice ones, too!”

“A teacher at a Jewish school brought a group of kids to learn about trade unions,” Jenkins said.

When Peter Clifford, Communist League candidate for mayor of Greater Manchester, visited the picket line March 15 he met a group of bus drivers from Bolton who brought a 500 pound donation ($690) from their Unite branch. They told him workers at their depot are following this fight closely.

“The strikers are setting an example which can strengthen the unions for us all,” Clifford said.

Jenkins told the Militant that 11 drivers who initially crossed the picket line have been won over to join the strike. A couple of strikers have gone the other way too, he said.

When workers in other industries learn about the bus bosses’ threat to fire any driver who refused to sign up to new terms, many are outraged. In recent months workers at a number of companies have taken action against the same threat to accept worse conditions or be forced from their jobs. This includes workers at British Gas, who are continuing a series of four-day strikes. The company there set a deadline of March 31 for workers to sign a new contract or face dismissal.