With the Go Ahead strike ballot coming to a close tomorrow in Manchester amid attempts by bosses to fire and rehire 500 bus workers on worse pay and conditions and a 10% reduction of bus workers (see Socialist Alternative for more info), bus workers in Manchester can take inspiration from recent developments at First Bradford Bowling Back Lane depot, where 350 bus drivers were being overworked and overstressed trying to run a full service whilst some staff were either rightly shielding or self isolating, leading to fears of driver and passenger safety with an overstretched workforce.
At the end of last year, the Unite branch decided to ballot staff in the Bowling Back Lane depot, and an impressive 85% of staff voted to initiate strike action. Due to the overwhelming majority of workers voting to strike and the threat of disruption to bus services in Bradford, First West Yorkshire will make adjustments to running times to reflect the return of near-normal amounts of traffic and reduce excessive duty lengths.
This shows the power that workers can have when organised against bosses attempts to use Covid as an excuse to make attacks on workers’ pay and conditions, and with the attacks by bosses at Go Ahead in Manchester, and very likely attacks coming in the next period, the victory at the Bradford depot is an important beacon for workers in the public transport sector.
However workers should go further than simply defensive strikes against pay, terms and conditions. Socialist Alternative calls for the return of public transport to local authorities – In West Yorkshire, there will be the election of the first Mayor this coming May, which opens the prospect that the control of public transport could be transferred back to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and Socialist Alternative members in West Yorkshire are playing an active role in this campaign. However public control would still leave the private companies making private profits from a public service, so this demand needs to go further to full nationalisation, under workers’ control and management of the entire transport system. We need an integrated public transport system, with investment and implementation of green transport, which would be able to meet the needs of the public and the planet.