On the Picket Line

Rally marks five weeks of bus drivers strike in Manchester

By Ögmundur Jónsson
April 19, 2021

MANCHESTER, England — Determined to win further support for their fight, hundreds of striking bus drivers at Go North West and their supporters gathered at the Queen’s Road depot in north Manchester April 3 to mark five weeks on the picket line.

Joined by trade unionists and others, the drivers rallied nearby before marching through the area. A caravan of two dozen cars came from the south of the city decked out in Unite union flags.

“Day 35 of the strike. Look around you,” Colin Hayden, Unite union branch chairman, told the crowd. “We’re solid. Our members are solid. We are out and we are staying out.”

Two days earlier, Unite announced talks with the company had ended and the strike would continue. The drivers walked out after bosses gave them eight days to sign up for a longer workweek and cuts in sick pay, or be dismissed.

“We are dealing with an aggressive employer, using aggressive tactics of fire and rehire,” Hayden said.

Some 7,000 GMB members around the country at British Gas have held 42 days of stoppages since the start of the year in face of similar demands. A further walkout is set for April 14. This is a day before bosses have threatened to dismiss thousands of gas engineers if they don’t accept a pay freeze, longer hours with no extra pay and changes to conditions. Unite strikers at Go North West have twice sent solidarity delegations to the GMB picket line.

“We need to join up the campaigns against these practices,” Ritchie James, Unite North West regional secretary, told bus drivers at their rally.