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Posted on 6 June 2019 at 13:24 GMT

Bus workers on strike, Preston & Chorley Stagecoach

Bus workers on strike, Preston & Chorley Stagecoach   (Click to enlarge)

Stagecoach strike - bus workers show how it's done

Dave Beale

Saturday 1st June marked the sixth strike day by Preston and Chorley's Stagecoach bus workers. Demanding an extra 50p to receive 11 an hour, Unite members have organised the strongest and most enthusiastic picket lines seen in central Lancashire for a long time.

Stagecoach is paying better wages to its bus workers in other parts of the north west, cynically maintaining the pay differentials of the old companies it bought up. Bosses refused to budge in negotiations last December, so Unite responded with a strike ballot - securing an astonishing 98% vote for a strike, with a 83% turnout!

Unite recruited almost all of the non-union members in recent months. Pickets are often 100 plus, out of 250-300 branch members.

One of the pickets immediately sold seven copies of the Socialist for us, such is the fighting spirit.

Bus strikers reading the Socialist, photo by T. Costello

Bus strikers reading the Socialist, photo by T. Costello   (Click to enlarge)

Provocatively, Stagecoach is bringing in managers from other areas as scabs, stuffing money into their pockets and accommodating them with expenses in a local 4-star hotel.

These scab drivers are breaching safety standards, for example by picking up passengers at unsafe locations and not stopping safely at bus stops.

However, the strikers are very committed and determined, knowing they are being cheated with 1.20 per hour less than other Stagecoach drivers in the north west.

Meanwhile the company makes fat profits in Preston and Chorley. The longer term union objective is to achieve pay parity for all Stagecoach drivers in the region.

However, such disputes are a symptom of Thatcher's bus deregulation and privatisation, which the Blair and Brown Labour governments refused to reverse.

What is needed now is a clear commitment by Jeremy Corbyn not only to re-regulate bus services across the country but also to bring them into democratic public ownership.

This is the only viable long-term basis to guarantee decent pay and conditions in the industry, to provide a radically improved bus service for both urban and rural areas, and to establish an integrated transport system in conjunction with rail nationalisation.

Further strike days will be on 11th, 18th, 22nd, 25th, 29th June, and 13th, 16th July.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 6 June 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

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.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • 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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