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10 July 2019
Victory for Stagecoach bus strikers!
Dave Beale, Chair, Unite Lancs Community branch (personal capacity)
Union militancy pays! That's the immediate conclusion to be drawn from the magnificent and successful recent struggle of Unite Stagecoach bus workers in Central Lancashire.
Selected days of strike action in pursuit of a 50p per hour pay rise have been organised over several weeks by the Unite Stagecoach branch covering Preston and Chorley.
This has been provoked by Stagecoach's wage policy to pay different rates in its various companies across the North West and to rip off Preston and Chorley bus workers accordingly.
Stagecoach poured in vast amounts of money to try to break the strike, bringing in managers from all over the country to drive through picket lines.
In response, the pickets have been extremely well-attended and very determined, with extensive wider support from other Unite branches (including my own, Unite Lancs Community branch).
As Unite planned to crank up the action with extra strike days scheduled, cracks in the employer's facade appeared - and at the end of June, Stagecoach capitulated!
The company offer was a staggered pay increase from £10.85 to £11.30 per hour by April 2020. This was put to a ballot of Unite Stagecoach members in Preston and Chorley, with a recommendation to accept. Members have now accepted the offer unanimously.
This has been the most significant and determined strike in Central Lancashire for some years, with important wider implications.
The eventual goal of eliminating the pay differentials across Stagecoach-owned companies in the region could now become a credible union demand.
The success of the strike, which has been widely publicised locally and to some extent regionally, demonstrates to workers in both the bus and other sectors that decisive and well-organised industrial action can be worth the gamble and can force significant concessions from recalcitrant employers.
The wider political picture is relevant too. The framework for guaranteed decent pay and conditions nationwide in the bus sector could be secured by the reversal of Margaret Thatcher's bus deregulation and privatisation, and with fully-funded democratic public ownership of the sector.
This would be possible with the election of a Corbyn-led Labour government committed to socialist policies.
If it were linked also to the renationalisation of the rail industry, this would have the potential to provide a massively improved, integrated service to the public, as well opening up the possibility of a genuinely environmental national public transport policy.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 10 July 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
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