Despite on-off hailstorms, the mood remained buoyant during the second day of the strike by First West Yorkshire drivers and engineers at the Bowling depot in Bradford.
Iain Dalton, West Yorkshire Socialist Party organiser
Bradford bus station has been eerily quiet as First run the largest number of services from the station, yet only a handful, operating out of other depots, are running. Whilst I was present, a delivery driver (an ex-bus driver himself) refused to cross the picket line meeting huge cheers and applause from the strikers.
Hundreds of drivers manned the picket lines showing the tremendous support for the strike, officially against the transfer of the 576 service to Halifax depot with a loss of eight jobs, but in reality over deeper grievances with the company.
One shop steward explained to us how there used to be twenty spare buses for every hundred in use to maintain services with repairs, maintenance and breakdowns. Now there are as few as three, meaning that frequently buses services are cancelled altogether, leaving passengers waiting without knowing when a bus will turn up as well as increased passenger numbers on the services that still do run.
Shift lengths have increased, with new starters now doing twelve hour shifts on a lower pay rates. There have been 90 jobs gone and not replaced in the last four years to the extent that the services only function on overtime. A ban on this due to the strike, on Sunday meant a whole number of services didn’t run.
Given the close timing to the general election a number of local politicians came down to the picket line, including Respect MP George Galloway and local council leader David Green. Green said Labour would be re-regulating bus services, yet Metro had been discussing introducing ‘Quality Contracts’ for years and not moving forward with even this partial reform due to opposition of profit hungry bus operating companies.
The Socialist Party on the otherhand, whilst welcoming measures to check the profiteering of the bus companies, calls for the renationalisation of bus services, alongside all public transport. Operated under the democratic control of bus workers and services users, we could channel the money currently overflowing shareholders back pockets into investment in improving bus services, pay and conditions and letting fare prices.
Socialist Party members from Leeds and Bradford, including local TUSC candidate for Bowling & Barkerend Ian Slattery, visited the picket lines and sold several copies of the Socialist