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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 July 2003

Devon Bus Workers Fight Low Pay

ON 8 July rail and transport union (RMT) members working for bus company Stagecoach Devon took the first of a series of one-day strikes.

The turnout was immense - in Exeter only four drivers turned up to work, by lunchtime this had been reduced to three, as one of the four abandoned his vehicle to join the union and the strike.

Steve Bush, Devon

Across Devon about 700 RMT members were on strike. The mood on the 150-strong picket lines in Exeter was determined.

The drivers' demands are modest - they want an increase from 5.93 an hour to 6.50 for drivers, with an equivalent increase for all other Stagecoach Devon staff. Crucially they demand this without any further attacks on working conditions.

Stagecoach Devon Manager Chris Hilditch is making much of his 'offer' to drivers of 7 an hour - but this 'increase' with all the strings attached would mean an average decrease in pay for drivers of 6 a week, as well as a decrease in staffing levels.

Stagecoach took over the Devon Bus services a few years ago, promising better services and better conditions for staff.

In their first year they asked staff to forego a wage increase in order to invest in the run-down bus fleet.

The workers agreed, on the understanding that when profitability came, they would share in it. As Stagecoach employees all over Britain have found, this was a lie.

Stagecoach Devon are making obscene profits - 2 million last year alone but employees have seen little but attacks on their working conditions.

Drivers receive no time off in lieu of wages for working weekends or unsociable hours, they receive no overtime, just a flat rate.

They are expected to carry out an unpaid half-hour vehicle inspection before they start driving. As one driver put it: "They want a 21st century bus service with 19th century pay and conditions."

On the first strike day, managers who hadn't driven for years took to the wheel, along with scabs from other Stagecoach areas - who were paid 15 an hour with their travel and accommodation at 70 a night provided.

With no vehicle safety checks and hardly any training, the results were both dangerous and farcical. Buses consistently broke the 5mph speed limit in and out of the depot with lights and indicators not working.

One scab reversed a bus into the managing director's car. A bus demolished part of the historic Bickleigh bridge and the engineering manager got a ticket for driving a bus with a defective tyre in Exeter High Street.

Public support for the strike is huge. Most of the travelling public are fed up with Stagecoach's appalling service and support the drivers' modest demands. Hundreds signed petitions on the first strike day.

Socialist Party members were warmly received on the picket lines. We hope this determined action will win an important victory against low pay in the South West. Strikes are continuing on 15,17,21,23 and 25 July.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 19 July 2003:

Tony Blair: Time To Go!

Devon Bus Workers Fight Low Pay

Right Wing Booed Out Of PCS Leadership

Say No To Poverty Wages

Iraq Watch:

Whipps Cross hospital workers: "Where we fight, we win"

Asylum Seekers Fear Repression

Kirklees Nursery nurses: United Action Gave Us Confidence

Fight For Trade Union Rights In Colombia

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Low Pay - No Way!

Reclaiming Feminism?

Weapons of mass destruction: A Web Of Lies From Day One

Gay Rights Aren't Only For Bishops

Genetic engineering: Science And Big Business

International socialist news and analysis

Kazakhstan: Foundry workers fight for nationalisation of factory

Africa in Crisis: Development reversed by Capitalism

"Stop The Reform Or We Will Stop The Country"


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