Mears picket line, 13.11.17, photo by Becci Heagney

Mears picket line, 13.11.17, photo by Becci Heagney   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Manchester strike wave continues with 49 walkout days by housing workers

Hugh Caffrey, North West Socialist Party

Mears housing maintenance workers began (on 13 November) a programme of 49 days of strike action, joining numerous other groups of workers fighting back in Greater Manchester.

Bus drivers at Arriva and Firstbus, train guards also employed by Arriva on the Northern franchise, Manchester airport cleaners and cabin crew, university staff and employees of IT companies Capita and Fujitsu.

Mostly in the private sector, nonetheless many of these disputes have as their root the privatisation and austerity carried out by successive governments – and councils, especially the Blairite Manchester city council.

Labour-run Manchester city council is behind the ‘Rail North’ project pushing driver-only operation on the trains and the outsourcing of social housing. It’s a major shareholder in Manchester Airport, and it’s overseeing a patchwork of privatised buses.

Residents are suffering £30 million of cuts as the council carries out austerity for its Tory friends, and stashes away another £27 million in reserves.

Meanwhile, Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, visited the Capita picket line – but not the pickets by housing or bus workers, policy areas for which he is actually responsible.

Mears strikers, July 2017, photo Becci Heagney

Mears strikers, July 2017, photo Becci Heagney   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Clearly, Corbyn’s new politics hasn’t reached the Blairite establishment that’s firmly in charge of local government in Manchester.

Housing and transport workers, and others, can tap into massive public support: solidarity that is multiplied by wanting to resist companies which make working class people’s lives a misery!

  • Mears strikers can mobilise tenants and the wider community in a major demonstration aimed at the leadership of Manchester city council, demanding fair pay and the return of social housing ‘in-house’ with investment and accountability to meet tenants’ needs.
  • Bus workers can coordinate their strikes and build a mass public demonstration demanding higher pay, lower fares and a return of the buses to local public ownership.
  • Rail workers could join that and demand an end to Rail North, to keep the guards, and the immediate renationalisation of the railways with no compensation to fat-cats.
  • The wider trade union movement can mobilise big support.

With determined strike action and mass struggle, major victories can be won for the working class. These are the kind of ideas that the Socialist Party in Manchester is discussing with all the strikers. Unity in action is strength, and socialist policies point the way forward.

Send messages of support to Unite rep Colin Pitt: [email protected] and Unite regional officer [email protected]; and post donations to: Unite House, Merchants Quay, Salford Quays, Salford M50 3SG

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 13 November 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.