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.
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.
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.