Dave Walsh, Merseyside Socialist Party
Bus drivers at Arriva in the north west are on all-out strike over pay. Unite and GMB members walked out from 20 July after bosses offered a 5% increase from April 2022, followed by a further 3.5% from October. But with the RPI rate of inflation now over 11% union members are in no mood to back down.
Around 1,800 members were balloted, 76% voted and 96% of those voted for strike action. The mood remains determined. Worker anger at Arriva has been building over many years with bullying management, below-inflation pay deals and attacks on pensions.
While staff worked on the front line throughout the pandemic, bosses ended the company pension scheme for those on newer contracts and placed them in the basic government scheme, netting the company millions in additional profits.
Picket lines across Merseyside have received tremendous support from the public, with many joining to swell the numbers. Other striking workers from the RMT and CWU have organised solidarity delegations of pickets, working together with Unite and GMB at Arriva to visit each other’s lines to boost morale.
What this dispute has highlighted is that privatisation of public transport is the root cause of the problems. Jobs and services have been under constant attack in order to increase profits for shareholders.
Many workers are demanding their unions campaign for transport to be taken back into public ownership. Meanwhile, Labour under Keir Starmer has distanced itself from public ownership. New opportunities are opening up within the unions to win support, demanding a conference to discuss the need to for a new mass party of the working class.