On the Picket Line

Bus driver wins back job at Manchester Go North West

By Anne Howie
February 14, 2022

MANCHESTER, England — After making gains during an 11-week strike last year, Unite union bus workers at Go North West here won another victory, forcing bosses to reverse their sacking of driver and union stalwart Tracey Scholes.

Scholes, with 34 years on the job, had complained that changes made to wing mirrors on vehicles she drove left her with a dangerous blind spot. Bosses responded by suspending and then later dismissing her, claiming she lacked the “capability” to drive the bus. She won her appeal Jan. 17. During last year’s strike at the Queens Road depot, Scholes ran the union’s kitchen.

The union campaign to prevent bosses from firing Scholes received widespread media coverage. It was backed by the Trades Union Congress, which said Scholes faced “the sack for being too short.” She is 5 feet tall and couldn’t see the newly installed mirrors properly.

A petition to reinstate Scholes was signed by 25,000 people. A rally of some 100 bus drivers and other unionists was held at the depot Jan. 11 as Scholes went in for her final appeal. Workers chanted, Go North West listen to us; just let Tracey drive her bus.”

At the action were four workers on strike at CHEP pallet company. Scholes talked with them about last year’s bus strike. “Some days are hard,” she said, “but keep it up.” Scholes said she and other drivers would visit the CHEP workers’ picket line.

Scholes was the first woman driver at the Queens Road depot, and one of the first in Greater Manchester. She started in 1987 when women were fighting their way into better-paying jobs they had been excluded from. “I’ve had comments, sexual remarks, a lot of things,” Scholes told the Guardian. “And I’ve dealt with that. I’ve not gone to management. I’ve gone and solved it and hit it head on.”

During her appeal, bosses offered Scholes alternative work at lower pay and less hours. Scholes rejected this.

On Jan. 17, Go North West caved in to the union’s demand. Scholes will keep her job with no cut in hours or pay and be able to drive what a company statement called, “a bus with wing mirrors of her preference” — in other words, a vehicle she can drive safely.