Monthly Archives: April 2015

Bus Strike Solid on Second Day

Huge picket lines at Bradford First bus workers strike - photo Iain Dalton

Huge picket lines at Bradford First bus workers strike – photo Iain Dalton

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.

Metro poster showing the much reduced bus service in Bradford during the strike

Metro poster showing the much reduced bus service in Bradford during the strike

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.

First bus workers striking - photo Iain Dalton

First bus workers striking – photo Iain Dalton

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

Advertisements

Big Picket Lines As Bradford Bus Drivers Strike

Large First West Yorkshire bus driver's picket line - photo Ian Slattery

Large First West Yorkshire bus driver’s picket line – photo Ian Slattery

Over 300 bus drivers, engineers and support staff in Bradford said ‘enough is enough’ and came out on a 48-hour strike on Monday 27 April that will have a massive impact on their privatised company.

Peter Robson, Bradford Socialist Party

On the picket line there were stories of brutal management tactics and bullying. Whatever the right-wing press say, this action is not just about a pay rise. One driver on the picket line said: ‘I was assaulted at work and the company would not even call the police, they were more interested in whether I could continue the journey to meet standards’!

He continued: ‘We have to stick together’ and commented further that some years ago there were 500 employees, now this has been reduced to less that 400 with the same amount of work.

Also the bus stock is very old with some of the buses now reaching the 15 year cut off and beyond, again, raising serious health and safety issues for drivers and the public alike. First West Yorkshire stand accused of allowing services to ‘wither on the vine’. As far as the workers are concerned, the depot is being allowed to run down with the intention of closing it in a city that already has way above the national average unemployment and poverty.

Rosters have been changed without any meaningful consultation, causing anger amongst workers that barely see their families as it is. So it is not difficult to see why this action has been taken. As well as giving our support to the struggle of these workers, Socialist Party members received a fantastic response to the TUSC leaflets we gave out. One worker finished his comments with: We will not go away, this is our future and our children’s!