Arriva bus strikers outside negotiations. Photo: Wakefield and District SP
Arriva bus strikers outside negotiations. Photo: Wakefield and District SP

Labour mayor attempts to undermine action

Iain Dalton, Yorkshire Socialist Party

Bus drivers, members of Unite the union, on strike in Yorkshire are continuing their action. Talks between Arriva management and the union failed to get a decent offer. The company offered just 15p-an-hour increase, and refused to backdate the offer to January when the pay claim should have been settled.

Union negotiators rejected the offer, a decision backed up by mass meetings on the picket lines. This democratic organisation of the strike, with negotiators reporting back to meetings of their members, is a clear answer to Arriva’s nonsense about their ‘offers’ not being put to Unite members.

The strike remains solid across the five depots, with a huge mass mobilisation of strikers outside the talks in Wakefield. This unity of the workforce will become crucial if Arriva attempts to drag this dispute out.

A second front against Arriva could be opened up with the news of 1,800 Arriva North West workers being balloted by Unite for strike action. Like workers in Yorkshire, Arriva is offering below inflation rises of either 3% or 6%, with cuts to sick pay and Saturday premiums.  As Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “Arriva can fully afford to pay our members a fair rate of pay but it is choosing not to do so to boost its profits.”

It’s time our elected politicians showed which side they are on: are they with the bosses or with the workers?

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Tory MPs for Dewsbury and Selby backing the bosses, but workers will have different expectations of Labour, a party Unite gives funding to.

Unfortunately, West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin seems to be one of those unprepared to give her full support. At the beginning of the strike she issued an equivocal statement which implied the dispute was as much the fault of Arriva workers as the intransigent stance of management.

And after being elected on a pledge of bringing buses under public control, it’s been reported that this could not be until 2025 at the earliest, or as far away as 2027!

In the meantime, the mayor’s office is in an enhanced partnership with the bus operators, which are supposed to be restoring bus services cut during the pandemic. Arriva has spent this year making further cuts to services!

But at a time when Arriva is trying to resume some services during the strike (Arriva report having restarted 14 school bus routes), it is shocking that Brabin introduced a free bus service between Wakefield bus station and Pinderfields hospital. This service, covering a journey that would have been made by an Arriva service, is effectively a scab service funded by the mayor’s office.

We understand that this was introduced without consulting Unite, let alone being agreed by the union. An elected representative that genuinely wished to represent the interests of workers should be consulting on any decision affecting their sector with the union representing those workers. A mayor that stood with workers would use all their powers of office to exert pressure on Arriva to meet Unite members’ just claims.