Bus drivers at Manchester’s Go North West firm are continuing an indefinite strike against worsening conditions imposed via “fire and rehire”. The strike entered its sixth week on 4 April. The drivers’ union, Unite, says the new contracts represent an additional 130 hours of work, equivalent to a pay cut of £2,500. At talks at conciliation service Acas, Unite submitted a counterproposal detailing how the company could save £1.3 million to avoid the contractual changes. Go North West has refused, and has told Unite that, unless workers accept new contracts, it may close down the Queens Road depot entirely. Bosses have given workers an 8 May deadline for acceptance of the new terms.
Andy Burnham, the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, recently announced plans to integrate bus services under local authority control. However, the move, which mirrors the model used by the publicly-owned Transport for London, integrates fares, timetables, and routes under public ownership, but leaves the actual operation of the routes, and the employment of bus workers, in the hands of private companies like Go North West. As ongoing disputes in London show, this model is no guarantee of better treatment for workers.
Bus drivers at London United, a subsidiary of French firm RATP, struck again on 31 March and 1 April, with further strikes planned on 7 and 14 April. The drivers are aiming to win an improved pay settlement, as their employer seeks to cut wages.
A statement from Unite said: “Following four days of negotiations… RATP made an offer for the outstanding pay increases for 2019 and 2020 and also sought to introduce new contract clauses. The pay offer fell well below the expectations of members and the proposed changes to conditions had not been previously discussed, and as such Unite was unable to propose the offer to members at this stage.”
RATP’s latest accounts, from 2019, show in annual turnover in excess of s latest accounts, from 2019, show in annual turnover in excess of €5 billion. Christine Chardon, the chief executive of RATP’s London operations, has seen her pay increase from £196,000 to £363,000.
Meanwhile, a ballot of Unite members working for Metroline, one of London’s biggest bus companies, is due to close on 9 April. The dispute centres on Metroline’s plan to introduce a remote signing on procedure. In response to a call from London mayor Sadiq Khan for a “moratorium” on the introduction of such procedures, Metroline has paused its plan. Unite said the company needed to “not just pause its remote sign on plans but discard them into the dustbin of history.”