Sheffield bus protest

AROUND 300 people marched through Sheffield last Saturday, 19
November, to protest at First’s bus fares rise. As one woman put it, "I
only want to ride on the bus, not buy it!"

Alistair Tice

The demonstration was called by "We Want Our Buses Back!", the
campaign group initiated by Socialist Party, which now enjoys widespread
support. The TGWU busworkers’ branch secretary, Trades Council,
Pensioners Action Group, Green Party and Respect were all there. But
most protestors were bus users angry at First’s price hikes (fares up
36% since last year) and service cuts.

One woman said, "I’m 50 and on my first demonstration. Where’s my mum
gone?" And there were lots of young people too, especially college and
school students. One told me he paid £8 a week in bus fares just to go
to school!

Significantly, Jan Wilson, Sheffield’s Labour council leader, joined
part of the march. Together with city MP, Clive Betts, attacking First’s
fare rises in parliament, this shows the pressure local politicians feel
under. But the best they can offer are Quality Bus Contracts by 2009.
However, New Labour Transport Minister, Alistair Darling, makes it clear
"there will be no return to the regulation of the 1980s."

As the demo reached City Hall, marchers burst into spontaneous
applause showing how pleased everyone was with the response. At the
rally, speakers attacked First’s lies and blatant profiteering, calling
for them to be sacked.

Colin Wray (Socialist Party) said we don’t want another private
operator in their place but need re-nationalisation of all public
transport. Campaign convenor Calvin Payne said we can’t wait four more
years and must increase pressure on the council, calling for a mass
lobby of the council meeting on 7 December.

Staffs bus drivers’ victory

AFTER SEVEN one-day strikes, 400 bus drivers in North Staffordshire
have achieved a significant victory over First Bus management. They are
likely to vote to accept the company’s latest offer, which will increase
pay to the £8 an hour drivers were demanding.

Andy Bentley

Although the full £8 an hour won’t be paid until April 2007, the
initial rise from the current £6.60 will be backdated to April this year
and most of the unacceptable strings previously attached have been

The drivers’ solidarity and determination stunned First Bus bosses –
every strike day was solid with no buses moving. Polish, Czech and
Hungarian drivers previously brought in by First Bus to try to drive
down wages and as potential strike-breakers stood shoulder to shoulder
on the picket line with other drivers.

The massive support that drivers received from local working-class
people was shown by the 3,000 names collected on Stoke Socialist Party’s
petition in support of £8 an hour for the drivers.

Even after the eighth and ninth strike days were called off, after
the latest offer, people still queued to sign our petition. Many drivers
thanked us for our support. One driver said: "You have supported us from
day one. Thanks for all your help. Our union (TGWU) gives millions of
pounds to the Labour Party but they have done nothing!"

Most drivers will accept this latest offer, but aren’t fooled by the
bosses’ propaganda. They know management will try to claw back what
they’ve been forced to concede. But after the solidarity shown in this
struggle they’re more confident that they can fight back.

Similarly, if First Bus bosses try to push up fares to maintain their
inflated profits they will meet massive opposition from ordinary working
people. This is also a victory for thousands of workers in the area who
are paid a pittance and an important step in the fight for a minimum
wage of £8 an hour.