When you’re waiting for a bus workers’ victory, then three (or more) turn up together…
Cleaners and shunters, working in the garages of First Bus in Glasgow, have made significant gains in management’s last-minute offer to avert four days of strike action planned this month. This deal follows victories by their driver colleagues who secured pay rises worth up to 21.5% over two years (dependent upon length of service) before Christmas. This has been matched by ‘inflation busting’ deals for workers in the Perth-based Stagecoach group across Scotland, England and Wales in the Autumn.
These victories have clearly come in spite of the intransigence of the transport bosses. First Buses, for instance, initially gave the insulting offer to garage workers of backdated pay below the current legal minimum wage!
But the fact that this, along with fragmented bargaining structures, did not prevent the victories of these workers speaks to the growing militancy of workers in Scotland.
RMT members on ScotRail also won significant wage increases in successive pay-rounds following strike action in the run-up to the COP26 conference, though ASLEF drivers are preparing to ballot following a derisory 2.2% offer from management. This demonstrates how little has changed since the SNP government’s supposed ‘renationalisation’ of the railways in April. Socialist Alternative instead calls for genuine, democratic public ownership, based on expropriation of the giant transport monopolies, and instead run under workers control, in the full interests of staff and passengers as part of a fully-integrated public transport system.
Local government workers’ consultative ballots have delivered massive majorities (89 – 95%) for action in response to the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities derisory offer of a £9.78 minimum wage and £850 a year increase. The unions’ claim for £3,000 across the board based on a 35-hour working week and £12 an hour minimum wage has been sufficiently bold to galvanise this united fight, building on Glasgow City Council workers recent victories in the cleansing department and equal pay disputes. Unfortunately, the same unions (Unison, Unite and GMB) dropped the ball when drawing up the joint trade union claim for 180,000 NHS Scotland workers. Apparently gift-wrapped for cut-hungry managers, this lacks any concrete, bold demands. Instead of focussing on a so-called “down payment on the journey of pay restoration”, what the members of these unions genuinely need is a fighting leadership and rank-and-file control of our disputes, to connect them as a step towards national public sector strike action.
The cost of living crisis and runaway inflation means that without a vigilant workers movement, even ‘inflation-busting’ rises can get ‘inflation-busted’ in the blink of an eye! Faced with these threats, rank-and-file trade unionists must ensure the Scottish Trade Union Congress develops a strategy to unite the struggles of different groups of workers and co-ordinate actions within, and across, all industries. On a local and regional basis, we need to organise conferences of resistance, linking workplaces and communities to defend living standards and fight cuts and all the bosses’ attacks. Scotland’s workers should once again show, as we did on ‘Red Clydeside’ in 1919, and in the Poll Tax rebellion seven decades later that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’.