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Stagecoach Devon bus workers: Fighting To Win
"THIS IS a fight we can win", said RMT regional organiser Phil Bialyk to huge applause. He was speaking to a march and rally of over 250 striking Stagecoach Devon Bus workers in Exeter. As their strike for decent pay entered it's fourth week, the mood of the strikers was stronger than ever.
Steve Bush, Devon
As the march made its way down Exeter High Street, members of the public cheered and applauded the strikers. It was a real show of force.
A day previously, Stagecoach Devon manager, Chris Hilditch, had made a written offer to all the strikers of the rate they are demanding - £6.50 an hour.
But the offer wasn't backdated to the beginning of the dispute, and there were strings still attached.
Hilditch had predicted that the strike would crumble as members accepted his offer. The march and rally provided him with a robust answer, as the strikers rejected his offer unanimously.
At the rally the mood was reflected by the speakers. "There has been much talk of outside 'militants' leading this dispute" said one speaker.
"I have been a rep in this branch for 30 years, and that makes me one of the 'leaders' of this strike.
"If that makes me a 'militant' - then I'm proud to be a 'militant'"
Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, on his second visit to the strike, pointed out that Stagecoach were about to receive millions in compensation for the West Coast Main Line fiasco.
He applauded the strikers for showing that they'd got off their knees to fight back and announced that the RMT executive had approved the taking out of a loan of £45,000 for a strike hardship fund.
This is a significant development, but will leave the strikers with very little - less than £100 each - once it is distributed. Bob Crow went on to praise the strikers for fighting not only for themselves, but for those who would come afterwards in the industry.
"Every member, EC member and official of the RMT is behind you" he said, and appealed for continued unity and courage to win the dispute.
Further strikes have been scheduled for the 7, 9, 11 and 13 August. The dates have been broken up in an effort to prevent Stagecoach repeating their tactic from the four-day action, of flying scabs down from Scotland.
The Strike Support Group and the Socialist Party continue to support the strikers in every way possible.
It also looks increasingly likely that drivers for First Group in Devon and Cornwall are going to ballot for strike action over their pay offer. So action could become more widespread very quickly, as more workers are radicalised by the example the Stagecoach strikers are setting.
Send messages of support and donations to: RMT Exeter No 2, c/o Lynda Quick, 149 Lower Wear Rd, Countess Wear, Exeter EX2 7DD. Cheques payable to: RMT Exeter No 2 BBF.
In The Socialist 9 August 2003: