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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 June 2008

Brighton bus drivers match inflation

BUS DRIVERS working for Brighton & Hove Bus Company have won an important deal in their pay dispute with the Go Ahead-owned business. T&G Unite members have accepted an improved pay offer from management by 410 votes to 73.

Peter Knight

Drivers have achieved a deal that matches inflation, with many winning above-inflation rates. Some drivers' determination to continue with their action is reflected in the 73 who wanted to keep fighting for all their demands. All the bus workers may need that resolve when pay negotiations resume in two years time.

Having rejected previous offers of a below-inflation deal for many, workers voted for industrial action and threatened to walk out for six Mondays in a row.

But on 17 June, without even having to turn off the engines and lose a day's pay, with only dates set for strike action, management backed down, offering a deal that matches inflation. This means the abolition of the graded pay structure with all drivers above one year's service moving up to the top pay rate.

Workers' demands to raise this top grade of pay by 4% were also achieved, meaning all drivers have defended their pay against the soaring cost of living.

Brighton & Hove Bus Company keeps putting up ticket prices and blames rising fuel costs for doing so. But the owners, Go Ahead group, arrange fuel costs in advance. At present they pay around 57p a litre, less than half the cost everyone else pays at the pumps.

The tax they pay on this only adds up to about 7p a litre meaning a massive tax break for the company and a 5 million post-tax profit last year for Go Ahead shareholders. Yet management thought it could still get away with below inflation pay offers for workers who were making them money.

Brighton Socialist Party members ran a stall one Saturday during the dispute to raise public support. Passing motorists and bus drivers honked their horns in support. Many people were disgusted that management had given themselves a 16% rise when those doing the hard work faced an effective pay cut.

Everyone who came to the stall supported the bus drivers' strike plans and donated to the party to help pay for leaflets publicising the real story. When workers and communities unite and stand up for each other's pay and conditions, the strength of their unity can bring victories.

Bus workers thank socialists

I write on behalf of bus workers on Brighton and Hove Buses, Go Ahead Group, to say thank you for the magnificent support we received from the Socialist Party, Socialist Students and the local Trades Council in our dispute over wages and conditions which was resolved in our favour without recourse to strike action.

It has been refreshing to know that there are principled socialists who give unconditional support to the working class when in struggle.

Brian Avey, Brighton Trades Council rep for Brighton and Hove Buses

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In The Socialist 25 June 2008:

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