On the Picket Line

UK bus drivers push bosses back, continue strike as talks start

By Ögmundur Jónsson
May 24, 2021

MANCHESTER, England — Some 400 Unite union members at the Queens Road bus depot here are continuing their strike after making some headway when Go North West bosses agreed to end threats to fire workers and to start talks. The bosses had previously demanded workers sign contracts that included longer hours with no pay increase and less sick pay, or be fired. The drivers have been on strike since Feb. 28.

Hundreds attended a solidarity rally for the strikers organized by the Manchester Trades Union Council as part of May Day activities May 3. Colin Hayden, chairperson of the Unite branch at the depot, said that Go Ahead, which owns Go North West, had agreed to withdraw “fire and rehire” and declared individual contracts some drivers had signed under threat of losing their jobs null and void. Two drivers who had been fired were reinstated.

“This is a sign of things to come,” Hayden said. “But the deal isn’t done yet.” Once there is a proposed contract it will be fully presented to the members “and only then will we return to work if our members decide to vote yes for the deal.”

A contingent of shop stewards from Stagecoach, which also runs buses in Manchester, joined the rally to support the strike.

On a visit to the picket line April 29, a group of rail workers from Manchester Piccadilly presented solidarity cards signed by 150 of their co-workers.

“No matter what job you are in we have to give support to each other,” Muhammad Qasim, one of those who brought the card, told the Militant. “That’s the way we get a bigger union.”