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Sheffield First bus drivers beat back bullying management
The dispute between 700 bus drivers, members of Unite, and First Bus in Sheffield has been in force for a few months. Four days of strike action have been taken and other days of action suspended as talks with management have given us some major victories in the treatment of our members by management.
An Olive Grove depot bus driver
Our first victory came for five members we were defending who had harsh disciplinary sanctions imposed against them. This included one driver who was disciplined for having one day's sick the day after his mother's funeral!
The management said: "We do not believe he was ill but was simply taking an extra day to mourn the death of his mother". For this he received a written warning and had his sick pay removed!
At first, management dug their heels in and said they thought all these disciplinary sanctions were fair and would do nothing about them. But with the threat of further strikes the management backed down completely. They have removed all these sanctions and will pay back all money owed, sick pay, assault pay, unpaid suspensions etc.
Buoyed by this victory we moved onto our second grievance, this was the removal of the 'day board'. This is a preferential shift system that allows older drivers nearing retirement to work day-type shifts only - who wants to work from 4am one week then finish at 1am the week after when you're in your 60s?
Once again management refused to reinstate the day board stating it had to be removed for 'efficiency' reasons. We proved this was not the case and the company had no justifiable reason for doing this. Further strike dates were then announced for last weekend, and once again we got a massive victory when the management caved in and said we could bring the day board back at the next re-write of duties in January.
We managed to get these victories after just four days of strike action and the very real threat of further action. However, we are now moving into what is the last but most difficult of our grievances to resolve - disciplinary and sickness procedures that are routinely used to bully and intimidate drivers. This requires a fundamental change in attitude by management at First Bus in Sheffield.
We have promised no further strike action for November while talks take place. This is to allow time for negotiations to change the disciplinary and sickness procedures and get these changes in writing.
These talks are scheduled for 25 November. We hope we can follow our earlier successes by emerging victorious from this meeting and start to change the bullying culture that exists at First Sheffield. Should these talks fail we will have no hesitation in naming further strike dates in December.
Our dispute is yet another example of what can be achieved by workers if you are prepared to stand up to these bullies.
In The Socialist 18 November 2009:
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