Bus workers under attack and fighting back

Picket line in Manchester. Photo: Unite North West

Picket line in Manchester. Photo: Unite North West   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Rob Williams, Socialist Party industrial organiser

After being told that they are key workers, bravely transporting NHS staff and other key workers during the pandemic, bus workers are increasingly having to strike back against the bosses’ attacks.

They risked their lives and, tragically, some lost their lives but it hasn’t stopped the private bus companies moving to cut wages. Some such as Manchester’s Go Ahead have done so through the brutal ‘fire-and-rehire’ offensive that has seen workers attacked from British Airways to British Gas.

Bus worker trade union reps have had to defend themselves against victimisation. RMT transport union rep in Hampshire, Declan Clune, has been sacked.

Unite union rep Moe Muhsin Manir in London, who led the successful campaign last year on bus safety during Covid, is fighting for his job.

His fellow rep, Judith Katera, has won her reinstatement after being sacked in December. This is a tremendous victory, showing that it’s possible to stop union-busting, which attacks reps today in order to go for their members tomorrow.

But bus drivers are up for the fight. The workers in Manchester started indefinite strike action on 28 February.

Two thousand bus drivers in three subsidiaries of RATP in London are currently taking action for a second week, as Metroline drivers are balloted for strike action over ‘remote sign-on’ – another route to attack workers. In RATP, the owner is looking to play workers in the three companies off against each other, while attacking pay and terms and conditions.

But this goes to the root of the issue for many drivers – that bus services have been privatised and are owned by parasitic companies. In London, 18 bus companies employ nearly 25,000 workers – all on different contracts. This makes it far easier for the greedy profit-driven bosses to attack drivers.

The Socialist Party demands that all bus services are renationalised as part of a socialist publicly owned, environmentally friendly, transport service that is run by transport workers in the interests of the majority of society.

See ‘why we need socialists in London city hall’ and ‘Manchester indefinite bus strike against ‘fire and rehire”