A PROTEST of striking Manchester bus drivers took place outside the Mayor’s Office yesterday afternoon, demanding that Andy Burnham takes action to stop the ‘fire and rehire’ policy of their employer Go North West. The drivers are on indefinite strike.
They delivered their declarations to London City Hall and the Greater Manchester Mayor’s office at 1pm yesterday.
Over 400 drivers in Manchester have been on all out strike since Sunday 28 February. Go North West’s fire and rehire plans mean bus drivers will be forced to work longer for no additional pay.
Go North West is expecting its drivers to undertake 130 hours of unpaid work per annum, resulting in drivers being £2,500 a year worse off. Go North West is also intent on tearing up the existing sick pay policy, which will result in a 67 per cent cut in sick pay for workers with over five years’ service.
Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said: ‘We are calling on Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan to publicly back a declaration which bars employers who use fire and rehire from bidding for future contracts in the great cities of London and Manchester. Warm words in support of the bus drivers in Manchester who are under attack are simply not enough and workers in London could be next. It’s time to act.
‘It’s obviously wrong for companies to sack workers and then rehire them on inferior terms and conditions. Workers need more than words of sympathy. While the government drags its heels, the Labour Mayors of Manchester and London must lead the way by using their powers to outlaw fire and rehire on their watch.’
Meanwhile, ‘National action now to defeat fire and rehire,’ was the message from the picket lines outside seven west London garages yesterday morning, where hundreds of Unite members were striking against £2,500 pay cuts from the French government-owned bus privateer RATP.
Workers at Hounslow Heath and Stamford Brook garages were on strike for the first time after being prevented from striking previously by Thatcher’s anti-union laws and they enthusiastically joined their colleagues who were taking their 12th day of strike action.
At Hounslow Heath Garage, driver and Unite member Raj Danda told News Line: ‘We are glad to join the strike at last. Nothing has gone out of here today and we’re solid. The company are trying to take over two grand from us and impose new contracts that will reduce pay and conditions for the future.
‘Fire and rehire is happening all over the country and it’s got to be stopped. In Manchester the bus workers have been on indefinite strike for over six weeks. That’s very brave. We have to do it or we’ll lose everything. Renationalise the buses and national strike now.’
At Fulwell Bus Garage, Unite Branch Secretary Phil Smith said: ‘Hounslow Heath and Stamford Brook coming out make our voice louder. Privatisation is a blight. It’s the same with these academies. They don’t worry about the kids, they’re only interested in their business model.’
At Stamford Brook, joining the strike for the first time Unite rep, Edmund Shoderu told News Line: ‘We began our picket line at 3.15am this morning and can confidently say we are 100 per cent solid with not one bus leaving the garage.
‘We are demanding a decent pay rise at least in line with inflation – all we have been offered is 0.5 per cent. This is after eight rounds of talks. Yesterday’s strike lasted from 11am until 5pm.’
At the Shepherd’s Bush garage Unite rep Abdul Hanafi said: ‘We are solid today and will be out next Friday and the following Monday.
‘The talks yesterday resulted in management withdrawing the 60-minute unpaid break back to the existing 40 minutes. That’s nowhere near enough to cancel the strike so we will be out again next week.’