Tracey Scholes, the woman bus driver sacked for being ‘too short’ was reinstated on 17 January after a massive publicity campaign led by Unite. The deal gives Tracey the same hours and pay as before. The company GoNW are attempting to spin the deal, saying it was available last September but was rejected at the time. This is false, as all earlier offers were taken off the table when they were rejected. The result is a tribute to Tracey’s determination, her loyalty to the union and a publicity campaign which has turned GoNW into figures of hate for every trade unionist – and every woman – in the country.
Socialist Alternative interviewed Tracey two days after her final appeal at which 100 trade unionists turned up tom support her.
In 1987 Tracey Scholes became the first woman bus driver in Greater Manchester. In the 12-week strike at GoNW buses in 2021 she was active on picket duty and cooking breakfasts as part of the UNITE catering team.
GoNW have recently adjusted the wing mirrors on their buses and Tracey, who is 5’ tall, is unable to see the mirror and operate the pedals. So after 34 years service Tracey has been designed out of a job and sacked.
At her final appeal on 11 January over 100 local trade unionists turned out to support her.
SA: what have GoNW suggested as alternative duties?
TS: I work part-time, 25 hours and love my job. The company’s latest offer was for me to work the school bus contract but it’s 5 hours a week less and they wouldn’t guarantee my present rate of pay indefinitely. I’m a widow with three children and a mortgage, I can’t afford to lose £3,000.
SA: What was it like when you started on the buses?
TS: When I started in 1987 management made me jump through hoops in a way they didn’t with the male drivers who started with me. They pointed out there were no ladies’ toilets but they did eventually convert one for me which female drivers use now.
SA: And you joined the union?
TS: I joined the union straightaway and I’ve always been a member, I always watched what the union fought for, you’d be driving and the call would come over the radio ‘everybody back in the depot’! The conditions we’ve got now, we would never have got without that.
SA: We’ve noticed that you use Facebook to promote other union disputes….
TS: That’s because, when we were on strike there were so many people – NHS, Rolls Royce Barnoldswick – that came to support us. The strike had a big effect on me. We came out of that as a family, the friendship and the camaraderie have been absolutely brilliant.
SA: How do you see the future of the union under Sharon Graham?
TS: We all voted for Sharon Graham, I’m so glad she won. I’m sure she’s come across some battles like mine and we want to make things better, not just for men, not just for women, but for all of us. Unite support me 100%, I knew they would.
SA: What are the issues for women in the unions?
TS: I’ve had to fight for part-time work, concessions over career breaks etc, which is hard. I was the first female driver to be pregnant too and I had support from my employer in those days – for example it was physically difficult to crank the route display blind at the terminus and inspector would come out and change it for me. We’re currently discussing a pre-menopause policy and I’ve heard that in some of the London bus companies they have guaranteed time off but with policies like that you often have to fight to enforce them.
I’ve always been one to go to management and demand a solution but this time they’ve just dismissed me.
At the time of writing Tracey is awaiting the results of her appeal.
Socialist Alternative supports Tracey 100%. Unite must demand full reinstatement without loss of pay if her appeal is turned down.